Since mid-March 2020, there have been numerous proposed class actions started in the United States in connection with membership fees charged by businesses whose operations have been impacted by COVID-19 closures and restrictions. Many of these class actions have targeted businesses that continued to charge monthly membership fees despite closing their facilities in order to comply with COVID-19 related restrictions. While there does not appear to have been the same flurry of membership-related class actions in Canada to date, there are the first indications of similar class actions being brought in Canada (see for example Barry Nashen v. Station Mont Tremblant Société en Commandite, et al., Case No. 500-06-001075-205 (Superior Court of Québec)) and it is reasonable to speculate that further actions regarding memberships will be commenced in the coming year.
The following is a sampling of recent membership-related class actions that have been commenced as a result of COVID-19 in the U.S.:
- Numerous class actions have been commenced against gyms and fitness clubs on behalf of members seeking refunds for memberships fees charged by gyms and fitness clubs that were closed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. For example, in Holloway v. Planet Fitness Franchising LLC, No. 1:20-cv-01868 (N.D. Ga. Apr. 30, 2020), the proposed representative plaintiff brought an action against a fitness club alleging that the club continued to charge members monthly membership fees despite the club being closed and not offering any services for the charged fees. The plaintiff alleges that by continuing to charge membership fees, the club is in breach of its agreement with members, which provides that members will receive unlimited access to any of the defendant’s fitness facilities. See also: Delvecchio v. Boston Sports Clubs, No. 20-cv-10666 (D. Mass. Apr. 5, 2020).
- A class action against a private club company, seeking the refund of membership fees paid to the defendant for its approximate 200 private clubs. The representative plaintiff alleges that he paid $184 per month for membership to a University Club in San Diego, California, which he had no access to during the pandemic. The claim alleges that the sole reason customers pay the membership fees is to gain access to the private clubs, and that the defendant had refused to issue a refund despite failing to provide the services agreed upon in its agreement with its members: Cuenco v. Clubcorp USA, Inc., No. 20-cv-00744 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 23, 2020).
- A class action against Six Flags Entertainment in California, seeking the refund of monthly membership fees paid by season pass and monthly membership holders. The representative plaintiff is a monthly membership holder and alleges that when she purchased the membership, she relied on the defendant’s claims that she would receive “unlimited visits” to Six Flags branded theme parks. The claim alleges that despite closing its theme parks in response to the COVID-19 situation, the defendant continued to charge the plaintiff’s credit card for her monthly membership fee: McConnell v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., No. 20-cv-03665 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 21, 2020).
- Several actions have also been brought against ski resorts by season pass holders seeking damages on account of the resorts retaining fees from season pass holders notwithstanding that the ski hills closed before the end of the skiing season. See for example: Han v. Vail Resorts, Inc., No. 20-cv-01121 (D. Colo. Apr. 21, 2020).