SINGAPORE – When phase two of the circuit breaker started, Scott Wong was looking forward to visiting his regular gym, Energym 24/7, at Bukit Timah Community Club (CC) again.
To his surprise, the gym remained shut and last week, he saw a notice put up by the CC saying the owner had terminated the tenancy on July 21 with immediate effect.
The notice, dated Aug 8, also said: “Energym 24/7 Pte Ltd is one of our tenants and we are not involved in their operations. They are in arrears on the monthly rental and utility/service charges and we are currently looking into this matter.”
Wong said he was taken aback by the sudden closure of the gym, which has been at the CC since December 2015.
The 29-year-old former national athlete told The Straits Times: “For many months, other members and I were still waiting for the gym to reopen, and the owner was quite responsive on Facebook, telling us to look out for updates.”
He had just renewed his 18-month membership in February for $600 and used to visit the gym four times a week to lift weights and do cardiovascular exercises.
Another member, who declined to be named, had also paid $600 for an 18-month membership in December. He had been training at Energym since 2017.
The 29-year-old said he had been in contact with the gym’s owner – whom Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records show is one Teng Kok Wah, who is also known as Jerrick to members – via the Energym Facebook page and WhatsApp.
While he was initially responsive, the member said his replies became sporadic at the end of June.
Last month, the member found that the Energym Facebook page had been taken down.
The engineer said: “I understand if he can’t sustain the business, but we’re frustrated because he’s not giving us any updates.
“He should come and talk to us… I just want some of my money back.”
Another member, who declined to be named, paid over $400 in December for a year-long membership.
The 29-year-old, who works in a bank, said: “I liked Energym for its convenience and competitive pricing. The owner was friendly as well, so I was sad when it closed. But I’ve come to accept it. At this stage, I’m resigned to not getting my money back.
“I know the CC is looking into this but I understand that there’s not much they can do, since this is a business-to-consumer issue.”
When contacted by ST, Teng declined to comment.
However, the Bukit Timah CC management committee (CCMC) said it is seeking the People’s Association headquarters’ guidance on how to resolve the issue and is willing to provide gym members advice.
The committee’s chairman Neo Tiam Ting said: “This is a tough period for everyone, especially small businesses… We do have sympathy for individual members who feel let down by the gym’s closure and who hope to be able to recover unused membership fees paid to the gym.
“Although this goes beyond the ambit of the CCMC, we will do our best to advise them on how to exercise their rights as consumers. Being the custodian of the community club, the CCMC is prepared to be as flexible and accommodating as possible towards tenants in genuine distress.
“In cases where tenants are unresponsive or uncooperative despite our best efforts, we also have to safeguard public interest by attempting arrears recovery.”
Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh told ST that customers of companies that have gone belly up can take legal action against them but he added that “you are throwing good money after bad money”.
He said: “The sad reality is that they may never see their money or if they do, it will be a very small percentage because they will be sharing with everybody else like the landlord who rented the place to them, utilities supplier… because they are all ranked as unsecured creditors.”
Letting the matter rest is a “better alternative” as he added: “When the writing is on the wall, might as well let the liquidator do his job and hope for the best that there will be some money to be distributed at the end of the day.”
The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said that it had received five complaints from July 1 to Aug 31 about the sudden closure of gyms. In general, Case will help to negotiate and/or mediate the disputes between consumers and businesses and if it is unresolved, consumers can also lodge a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal or seek legal advice.
But Case executive director Loy York Jiun warned that obtaining a refund in cases where a business is insolvent can be challenging.
Loy said: “To avoid or minimise such prepayment losses, Case advises consumers to opt for ‘pay as you use’ payment options as much as possible, and avoid buying pre-paid packages that involve large sums or lengthy contract periods.
“Consumers should also find out in advance if the business offers prepayment protection.”
Wong has since joined another gym near his workplace in Jurong East.
He said: “I always hoped that Energym would re-open because it’s very convenient and not as crowded as my new gym.
“Energym was closer to home and it was easier to train there during off-peak hours. The environment was great as well.
“But there’s no choice, life goes on and I guess it’s also reflective of the current mood of things.”
Additional reporting by Kimberly Kwek
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