Watch out for pushy fitness club sales ploys

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am


Do not fall prey to aggressive sales tactics from fitness clubs, the Consumer Council warns.

Complaints about heavy-handed techniques by such clubs have risen in the past four years from 94 cases in 2008 to 184 in 2010. There were 119 cases in the first half of this year, a 17 per cent increase year-on-year.

Lured by free gifts or trial offers, consumers are then bombarded by high-pressure sales tactics. Some people have had their credit cards and personal belongings withheld, according to the watchdog.

In one case, a psychiatric patient was talked into signing a HK$60,000 contract while a club employee held on to his ID card and credit card. The patient's mother tried to stop the membership but the company insisted he should pay.

Another man paid HK$600,000 for 400 training sessions over three months. He could not finish all the sessions but his request to revoke the contract was rejected.

Buyers of school textbooks are also feeling the pinch, with price rises exceeding inflation for the first time in three years. Prices of primary school and secondary textbooks for the coming school term - excluding the 'debundled' ones whose prices do not include the cost of related teaching materials - increased by 4.3 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively, increases above the inflation rate of 3.3 per cent.

'Book publishers attributed the increase to an increase in costs and a decrease in the number of students,' council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said. Paper prices surged in May, she added.

Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association and the Anglo-Chinese Textbook Publishers Organisation said the figures were misleading. The council included some reference books instead of textbooks, they said.

The prices of 15 per cent of all textbooks will be unchanged and some new books will cost up to a quarter less, according to the groups. A price rise was necessary to support higher costs over the past three years, they added.