I recently have become involved in a very upsetting situation with a "Fitness Institution" that's left me incredibly angry & frustrated. Allow me to elaborate... (this is a long one!) About 6 years ago, while still a student at York University in Toronto, I decided to join a gym and improve my quality of life. I chose a local gym (call them "X"), as I recalled their advertisements, and one of their branches was located nearby. Upon consulting with the "X" membership representative, I explained that I was only interested in joining for a 4 month trial period, after which I would decide if I wanted to continue using their facilities. Having said that, the membership contract/agreement was then specifically modified and amended to state that my membership would only be valid for a period of only 4 months. I payed with a cheque, the amount of which came to 4 months worth of membership fees, and thereby became temporary 4 "X" Fitness member. My line of thinking was to evaluate the fitness environment and conditions, and see if they were to my liking. If they met with my satisfaction, I would then choose to extend my membership beyond the 4 months I had signed-up for. I attended the gym infrequently for the next 3 months, having decided fairly early into my 4-month membership that the facilities were definately *not* to my liking. I was upset at the fact that specific services that I had been promised were never acutally provided (including the fitness assessment), and appalled at the general lack of hygene in their facilities. Such hygenic issues included changerooms that were carpeted, consistently dirty, and smelled of foul odors (the origins of which I dared not attempt to identify). Having said that, I proceeded to write a letter of protest addressed to "X", in which I stated that I was not satisfied with their services, unhappy with their exercising environment, and appalled with their unhygenic conditions. I then indicated that I would not be extending my membership with "X" past the 4 month contract period, and would seek membership with a different fitness institution. I hand-delivered the letter to a member of the management staff and ended my relationship with "X" Fitness. Or so I thought... Fast forward to June 2002. I had recently set-up a service with my bank whereby I would be mailed detailed monthly bank-statements, which would account for every transaction during that month. One evening, upon examining my May 2002 statement, one specific transaction catches my eye: "Preauthorized debit - 'Y' Fitness Inc. - $35.91". Checking my March & April statements verified that previous withdrawals for the same amounts had also been made. I was now looking at a minimum of three Preauthorized Payments that I did not authorize, to a Fitness Institution with whom I was never a member! The next day I contacted the head-office of "Y" Fitness to discuss the unauthorized monthly debits. I placed several calls to head-office, after which I'm finally connected with the Mr. "Y", the "Y" Fitness employee responsible for membship issues. I recounted my situation to Mr. "Y", and he explained that the "X" Fitness club with whom I had been a member had been taken-over by "Y" Fitness. After the takeover, "Y" Fitness proceeded to assume the "X" membership roster. It also turns out that my membership somehow remained active, despite my 4 month contract, and letter of protest & cancellation. As a result of my active account status, "X" & "Y" continued to charge my account for a period of 6 years (between 1996 & 2002), the total withdrawls totalling something between $2000 & $3000. I explained to Mr. "Y" that I had originally paid by cheque (having never supplied any bank-account information), that the "X" membership was only for 4 months, and that the membership had been cancelled. I also explained that the money was being taken out without my consent or autorization. Mr. "Y" then assured me that, based on our conversation, he would "cancel" my membership immediately. I then asked Mr. "Y" to provide me with the authorization by which "Y" Fitness had accessed my account. He could not, nor could he produce any contract (my original with "X", or otherwise), or my written letter of protest/cancellation notice. I indicated that I no longer had a copy the original contract from 1996, and he indicated he would "order all my information from head office", and would call me when they arrived. After waiting a few days to be contacted by Mr. "Y", I lost patience and contacted him once again. He informed me that they could not find my information, and could only produce my membership information in their computer system. He then claimed that, in order to return my money, I would need to provide "Y" Fitness with a copy of the original cancellation notice. I stated that they should have a copy of the notice with my contract, both of which they could not produce! Mr. "Y" did mention that, after speaking with his superiors, he was authorized to grant me credit for the amount spent at the gym, but would not issue a full refund. I explained to him that I was already a satisfied member of another club, and would not accept his offer. Instead, I argued that they should provide proof that I was a member (i.e. a contract), as well as any authority granted to them to access my account (i.e. a Void Cheque). This however proved to be futile, as he claimed no responsibility, ending the conversation with the words "well, you'll just have to take us to court!". At this point I was LIVID! Money was being withdrawn from my account without my permission, knowledge, or authorization. In the 6 years in which this had been happening, I had never recieved a single communication from either "X" or "Y" indicating that I might still be a member of their clubs. "Y" could produce no evidence that I was a member of their organization (no contract), nor could they produce any authorization to access my bank account. I later occurred to me that they may have recorded the account information from the bottom of the original cheque that I had written. Before continuing, I'd like to mention that, in the past, I did not make a habit of examining my account-transactions in detail. I do not authorize anyone access to my account (except my employer, who only deposits money), specifically to avoid situations in which my account might be improperly accessed or tampered with. I use my credit card, should I choose to pay for something on a monthly basis. Having said that, I would not expect to find some organization withdrawing money from my account, as I never grant anyone access to my account! It's partly for this reason that I did not notice these transactions that had been taking place. My next course of action was to contact my bank and see what they could do to reverse the charges. Unfortuantely, they were of little help, and could only refund they payments of the previous 2 months. They were also unable to provide me with any information as to how "Y" had obtained my bank account number, or who had authorized the access. My home branch bank-manager went so far as to call Mr. "Y" and see what she could do about obtaining a refund, but unfortunately got the same response that I did. The bank did however place a "stop-payment" on my account, thereby blocking any future payments to the gym. After weeks of dealing with bank representatives, I was finally provided with the information for the bank-branch from which the payment-requests were originating. I placed a call to this branch and spoke with the bank-manager. She explained to me that they did not hold any records, and could not provide me with the information that I required. She proceeded to explain that the bank provides their customers with a service that allows them to supply the bank with account numbers, and amounts to withdraw from those accounts. No security-measures are put in place to insure that such account-access has been granted. In essence, a customer could access whatever account they wanted, no questions asked. To top it all off, I got my July statement last week, and found that "Y" Fitness had attempted to withdraw YET ANOTHER payment from my account. This occured despite Mr. "Y"'s previous statement that he was cancelling my account. Thankfully, the stop-payment prevented the withdrawl, and the payment was denied. So at this point, I'm gathering information and examining my options. It looks like the only way I can get my money back is if I take the case to small claims court. I've spoken with several people who have had similar situations with their gyms, and I'm wondering how this kind of thing can happen, and if there's any other recourse. Has anyone here had any similar experiences? Is there something else I might be able to do to get my money back? Moe.