Discovery medical aid, said yesterday that Body Action gym had chosen to “self-refer” a complaint it had against rival gym group’s Virgin Active and Planet Fitness, after the Competition Commission found its complaint to be without merit in April this year.
Discovery, through its Discovery Vitality unit, recompenses its members who are also Virgin Active and Planet Fitness gym members, by paying a large portion of their gym fees.
This weekend, Body Action said it was taking on Virgin Active and Planet Fitness as well as Discovery Vitality via a complaint lodged with the Competition Tribunal.
Body Action CEO Antonio Iozzo told BR in a telephone interview on Friday that the complaint of unfair competition arose from their view that Discovery Vitality subsidises up to 75% of their members’ gym membership fees when they sign up with Virgin Active or Planet Fitness, while denying any other competing gym facility the opportunity to participate in this arrangement.
He added that the three firms offered and marketed the same benefits and shared marketing expenses.
Discover, however, said in a statement yesterday: “We are disheartened by the accusations made by Body Action, and find them not only to be without merit but also disingenuous and misleading. We have partnerships with a number of gyms and other fitness facilities – big and small– contributing to the growth of the sector over the past three decades.
“Considering our core purpose is to make people healthier, we would like nothing more than to see a thriving fitness industry, and are continually innovating and partnering to achieve this.”
Body Action comprises a high-end gym in Bedfordview that launched during the Covid-19 pandemic at a higher price point to the surrounding gym facilities.
“In September 2021, Body Action laid a complaint – solely on behalf of Body Action – against two gym chains and three financial services companies. The Competition Commission conducted a thorough investigation of Body Action’s complaint and found it to be without merit, resulting in the non-referral of the matter in April this year,” Discovery said.
This is not the first time that Discovery Vitality, Virgin Active and Planet Fitness have faced legal action by smaller independent gym operators. In 2015 Fit-SA, a not-for-profit group representing small gyms outside the Virgin and Planet Fitness brands, was unsuccessful in a complaint lodged at the Competition Tribunal against Discovery, the two gym groups and other medical aids.
The crux of their complaint at the time was also that Discovery, through its Vitality programme, subsidised membership to Virgin and Planet Fitness and, in so doing, made all other gyms uncompetitive.