Gym pays up, as ACCC banks first carbon tax infringement fine

A fitness club has paid an infringement fine to the competition watchdog after it offered new contracts it claimed would help members avoid price increases due to the carbon tax.

The notice – the first ever associated with the carbon tax – is the latest squeeze on businesses using the carbon tax to rort customers, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already struck down bakery chain Brumby’s, and other businesses, for similar transgressions.

However, this is the first time an infringement notice has been paid.

GFC Berwick, trading as Genesis Fitness Club, has paid $6,600 as part of the infringement notice.

The Victorian business sent members contract extensions at their current rates, saying this would help members avoid price increases of between 9-15% due to the carbon tax.

The business which operates the franchise, Belgravia Health and Leisure Group, was contacted this morning, but no reply was available prior to publication.

In a statement, ACCC chairman Rod Sims says the fitness club didn’t have a basis for claiming the carbon tax would increase costs – and noted that over 200 members took up the offer.

“We are concerned that the false claims about the carbon price may have encouraged these people to sign lengthy contract extensions they otherwise would not have.”

The chief executive of Belgravia Health and Leisure Group has written to all the members who took up contracts, and has offered them the opportunity to leave the contract at no extra cost.

Once again, Sims has underlined the ACCC’s rules when it comes to the carbon tax – that businesses need to justify any price increases.

“Businesses are free to set their prices as they see fit but must carefully consider the basis for making carbon price claims and ensure such claims are truthful and have a reasonable basis,” Sims said.

The watchdog slammed a refrigeration company last week after it made statements to customers attributing the whole amount of a price increase to the carbon tax.

 

 

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