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Lawsuit targets Planet Fitness for fees during coronavirus pandemic

This Planet Fitness in Stone Mountain has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (BILL RANKIN/brankin@ajc.com)
This Planet Fitness in Stone Mountain has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (BILL RANKIN/brankin@ajc.com)

A DeKalb County man has filed a federal lawsuit against Planet Fitness, saying the company wrongly charged his bank account a monthly fee while his fitness center was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed Thursday by Antonio Holloway, seeks class-action status on behalf of other members of Planet Fitness’ workout centers. It is among similar lawsuits filed against fitness centers across the country.

In an April 16 post on the Planet Fitness website, CEO Christopher Rondeau said the company had “proactively frozen all memberships on your behalf, and you will not be charged any fees during this time.”

An accompanying FAQ on the company’s website acknowledged that, because of the timing of the shutdowns, some members were billed shortly before some centers were closed.

"Rest assured that you will not be charged for any days when the club was closed," the company said. "We will make an adjustment on your next billing cycle when we reopen."

On Friday, McCall Gosselin, the company’s senior vice president of communications, said, “We can confirm that the plaintiff was not billed while the local facility was closed due to COVID-19, and we believe this lawsuit is without merit.”

The lawsuit paints a different scenario.

A Planet Fitness member since 2016, Holloway worked out at a Stone Mountain center until it closed during the first week of March. On March 18, Holloway’s bank account was debited the $19.99 monthly fee for his “Black Card” membership, which gave Holloway unlimited access to any of the company’s fitness centers, the lawsuit said.

When he tried to contact Planet Fitness, Holloway was given a phone number with a message stating the center’s facilities were closed, with no option to request a refund, the lawsuit said.

Rather than providing adequate customer service to address wrongfully collected charges, Planet Fitness and its franchisees “have hidden behind a single, inaccurate statement on their website regarding the charges,” the lawsuit said.


COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS IN GEORGIA


The suit contends Planet Fitness should be found liable for breach of contract, violations of Georgia’s consumer protection laws and unjust enrichment.

Holloway’s lawyers are seeking to represent all members of Planet Fitness’ approximately 1,900 fitness centers nationwide who were also charged membership fees after their gyms were closed. In the alternative, the suit seeks class-action status to represent all Planet Fitness members in Georgia.

Although Holloway lost just his $19.99 March membership fee, the possible exposure to Planet Fitness exceeds $5 million if the case receives class-action status, the lawsuit said.