Widespread pandemic shutdowns have harmed businesses that rely on income from ongoing operations. However, the shutdowns have also deprived customers of the use of prepaid memberships and subscription fees. Many recreational businesses, including fitness gyms, country clubs, and golf courses, have had to face unhappy members with unusable prepaid memberships, prompting a growing number of lawsuits over refusal to refund the fees.
Large golf course operator faces lawsuits
One high-profile defendant is a large owner and operator of golf clubs. ClubCorp, which operates more than 200 private clubs, faces more than one proposed class action golf club lawsuit after continuing to charge its members full price despite a government-mandated coronavirus lock-down. Membership fees at ClubCorp’s golf clubs and other athletic facilities fall between $120 and $800 per month, and disgruntled members say that it charged thousands of members full price even when it was impossible for those members to get any use out of the memberships.
According to the plaintiffs, the club owners continued to charge members monthly membership fees and expenses even when the clubs were closed and that by doing so, they took advantage of members. They argue that the reason that members pay for memberships is to have access to the club’s amenities, and when they do not receive that benefit, they should not be charged.
They also argued that the defendant’s business model is based on a refusal to issue a contractually-obligated golf club refund of initiation fees to resigning members.
ClubCorp has taken the position that its contracts allow it to continue to charge monthly membership dues even when the clubs are closed and that it will extend memberships to reflect the time that the clubs are shut down.
Lawsuits may be complicated by bankruptcies
A potential complication for those seeking refunds through a golf course lawsuit is bankruptcy by the clubs. According to industry professionals, the golf course business was already facing financial challenges before 2020. The additional stress of pandemic shutdowns pushed some of the facilities into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In some locations, the COVID shutdown actually benefited golf courses. As other businesses were closed, in places where the local governments allowed golf courses to remain open, they saw an uptick in business. However, the slight boost was not enough to off-set the economic strain that was already underway.
Can I file a golf club membership fees lawsuit?
If you have requested a golf club membership fee refund, you may have a significant wait ahead of you. Each club has its own contracts that lay out the terms for refunds, and the procedures can vary depending on how the club is structured and whether it is a public or private organization. One common term is that the club will only process refunds as new members join to replace the lost members. Even then, though, not all clubs stick to the agreement.
A lawsuit can prevent the golf club from ignoring you. However, the threat of bankruptcy can complicate matters. Call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman or Robert Dowd of Dowd Law today to talk to an experienced lawyer about whether joining a golf club membership fee class action lawsuit is right for you. We are here to help you get your golf club refund as quickly as possible.
- ABA, COVID-19 Class Actions Forecast, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/tort_trial_insurance_practice/publications/committee-newsletters/covid-19_class_actions_forecast/
- The Deal, Covid-19 Another Hazard for Golf Course Owners, https://www.thedeal.com/restructuring/covid-19-another-hazard-for-golf-course-owners/