South East Wales

Dragons' Den Duncan Bannatyne's cancer patient gym ban

A nurse recovering from cancer has been banned from rejoining a Cardiff gym owned by Dragons' Den's Duncan Bannatyne after a dispute over membership fees.

Bronwen Davies asked to suspend her membership of the Bannatyne's Health Club in Llanishen due to ill health.

Following a dispute, she was reimbursed £164 after a case at county court.

Mr Bannatyne said he would never re-accept her as a member and said she was "disruptive" - which Ms Davies denies.

"I'm just disappointed, really disappointed that a man of his standing and a national club can behave in such a vindictive and petty way," she said.

The entrepreneur has a wide variety of business interests which include hotels, transport and the media. He became famous as a star of the BBC TV programme Dragons' Den.

Ms Davies first joined the Cardiff gym in 2004 before it was taken over by Mr Bannatyne's company.

In July 2009 she underwent surgery and was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil. Two months later she began a six-week course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Correct information

She said that, as her health deteriorated, she remembered that there was an option to suspend her gym membership in her contract.

"I was told by the manager in Llanishen that yes, I had such a contract and in order to enact it I had to put it in writing to her," she said.

"I could suspend my membership from October. I could ask for a month initially and then roll it forward if necessary by phoning up.

Image caption Duncan Bannatyne said he was satisfied the complaint was addressed

"As it turned out, that wasn't the correct information, I should have been told I could suspend it for between two and six months but nevertheless I acted on the advice.

"I was then extremely ill. I was in no fit state to be ringing or writing to anybody during the months that followed.

"My husband rang, on my behalf, to tell them I was far too ill and to ask that the membership should continue to be suspended."

The monthly membership fee for October 2009 was debited from her account although the company later reimbursed her.

She said it later transpired that membership fees for subsequent months were also deducted.

Ms Davies said that as her health improved in 2010 she wrote to the company to ask for a refund.

"I wrote saying; 'look, this is what's happened'. 'You've refunded a month of the five months that I was off and could I have the other four months money?'"

Newspaper article

Ms Davies said she was referred to the company's head office.

"I wrote half a dozen letters in 2010 to the head office including one to Duncan Bannatyne himself and also to ask what their complaints procedure was," she said. "I got nowhere."

She then contacted a newspaper's money advice column. The paper made no progress but published a summary of her story in January 2011.

She later received a call from a manager at the health club suggesting she might like to end her membership.

"I said no, not at all. I said I don't have a problem with my local club. I do, as you are clearly aware, have a problem with head office and getting a refund."

She later took the issue to the Office of Fair Trading and eventually the county court.

"The judge found entirely in my favour and ordered Bannatyne to refund me and pay my costs," she said.

Ms Davies then wrote to Mr Bannatyne asking to be reinstated, as she wanted to continue her rehabilitation and there was not another gym nearby.

But in a letter, he refused. He wrote: "Whilst I do not agree with the court's decision or its interpretation of our membership agreement and policies, I am willing to accept its decision.

"However, I am not prepared to ever re-accept you as a member at any of the Bannatyne Group's health clubs."

Mr Bannatyne said he was satisfied the complaint was addressed at each level and she should have the "good grace" to accept his decision and let the matter rest.

Twitter comments

He also warned that if she approached the media again he would be forced to "defend [his] position both in the media and if necessary through the courts".

Mr Bannatyne reacted to the report on Twitter on Wednesday. Among the remarks from his account were claims that Ms Davies was a "persistent liar".

A spokesman for the Bannatyne Group said the comments on Twitter were a matter for Mr Bannatyne. The spokesman also issued a statement.

"This story is not as it seems," it read. "The lady's membership was revoked because she was disruptive".

"The Bannatyne Group supports numerous cancer charities and sympathises with the plight of cancer sufferers, but we will not be submissively bullied by this former member as we have to act in the best interest of all our members," the statement continued.

Ms Davies said she had never been disruptive and described the comments on Twitter and the company statement as "disgusting".

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