Closure of swimming pools – What compensation for users? – News

Entrance tickets, swimming lessons, water aerobics lessons, etc. These benefits can reach substantial sums. What solutions are offered to consumers in the event of swimming pools closing without notice? Several scenarios are to be distinguished.

The brutal announcement at the beginning of September, by the private company Vert Marine, of the closure of around thirty swimming pools (in Limoges, Versailles, Paris, etc.) has brought the question of the rights of users of sports equipment back to the fore. . In the case of Vert Marine, it seems that the outcry of local elected officials motivated the latter to quickly announce the reopening of swimming pools. By next week, they should all be open to the public again. But such a quick question is not systematic. This summer, a number of facilities, for example in Issy-les-Moulineaux, closed their doors without notice, sometimes throughout the summer period. During the successive confinements linked to the Covid-19 epidemic, the pools were also inaccessible for many months. Whether the closure is short or prolonged, driven by a decision of the local authority, the private delegate or the State, solutions are available to consumers who have previously paid for services.

The manager undertakes

In a certain number of cases, the manager (local authority or private delegate) communicates itself on the reimbursement conditions. Vert Marine, for example, has begun to reassure customers. “Subscribers will not be robbed, the customer is not responsible and, as during the Covid health crisis, compensation will be offered upon reopening”, specified the management of Vert Marine for the Calyssia swimming pool in Armentières. In Limoges, the group’s local director said: “The Vert Marine group has already considered the question. Everything is already in the banking pipes so users will be debited on September 8. We will not be able to reimburse them but they will not be debited in October. Regarding the 10-entry cards, their validity will be extended. » It is true that in this case, the mayors exerted pressure, in particular to claim compensation for users during negotiations on reopenings. The terms of reimbursement (or extensions) are generally assigned by the manager, in particular on the site of the aquatic establishment.

The user must claim

If the town hall or its delegate remains silent, it is up to the user to assert his rights. The complaint must be brought to the town hall if the pool is managed directly by the latter. But around 10% of current swimming pools are today managed by private companies delegated to the public service. “In this case, you must make your request to the delegate. Signing the delegation contract gave it the responsibility of managing relations with users, in particular issuing tickets and subscriptions. Even if the tariffs were negotiated between the town hall and the private company”, says Samuel Couvreur, lawyer specializing in the management of public services and public contracts at the firm Seban et associés. In the event of difficulties in making themselves heard by private managers, consumers may find it beneficial to meet collectively. And take the opportunity to ask for help from the public community. Even if the latter has delegated its rights and duties in terms of invoicing, it can still play a role as a weighty intermediary in negotiations between the company and individuals. Of course, in all cases, it is important to keep your payment receipts for the duration of the validation of the cards and tickets.

What forms of reimbursement?

“Sometimes the service regulations, adopted when the contract is concluded, provide for terms of compensation in the event of closure of the sports facility”, says Samuel Couvreur. In this case, these measures will apply. The regulation may have provided for:

  • suspension of subscriptions;
  • the extension of the validity period of tickets and subscriptions;
  • or even a partial or total refund, in particular if the duration of closure is extended significantly.

If the service regulations are silent, users do not lose their right to complain. “Users are protected by law. Apart from cases of force majeure, if they have paid for a service not delivered by the public authority or its delegate, they can ask the judge for the application of the service or its reimbursement. In the case of Vert Marine, for example, we are clearly not in a case of force majeure”, emphasizes Samuel Couvreur. The event must indeed be both external to the parties, totally unpredictable and make the execution of the service impossible, to fall into this category. This will be the case, for example, in the event of a fire in the equipment. On the other hand, the health crisis linked to Covid-19 or the increase in the cost of energy does not correspond to a situation of force majeure.

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