A campaign has been launched calling for an investigation into fitness app Bounts after the company made it more difficult to earn rewards from exercising. Paid-for subscriptions have also been scrapped and many customers have been left confused about how to claim refunds.
The app was originally set up using a points system to reward users for doing everyday activities (such as walking or going to the gym) with vouchers that they could spend in high street stores. Bounts gave you points based on your daily step count, doing 20 minutes' exercise, or working out at a gym for at least 30 minutes.
MoneySavingExpert.com first highlighted the app in January as a good way of earning rewards from exercising. But Bounts made significant changes in October with paid-for subscriptions stopping and rewards becoming more difficult to win.
Instead of points being redeemed for vouchers, users must now complete certain 'challenges' that may or may not yield a reward.
A campaign has been launched on website Soapbox calling for the company to be investigated for "potentially breaching its obligation to customers under Advertising Standards Authority regulations, the Misrepresentation Act (1967) and Unfair Trading Regulations". The campaign was launched yesterday (9 November) and 38 people have joined so far.
Existing legislation prevents businesses from making changes to the terms and conditions of a contract after it's been signed, and offers protection to customers in cases where goods and services offered are not what was contractually agreed.
However, Bounts denies it has reneged on its responsibility to customers, as its T&Cs state: "We reserve the right to amend these reward terms from time to time, so we recommend that you review these reward terms prior to every time you redeem your points to ensure that you understand the terms at the time of your reward redemption".
Check out our Bounts changes guide for full info on whether it still pays to walk.
So what's changed exactly?
The changes made by Bounts are significant. Originally, the app gave its users points based on the number of steps they completed, which it tracked via third party apps or fitness trackers. GPS was used to track gym visits and some exercises. Steps were tracked by syncing a fitness tracker or a free app such as Google Fit with the Bounts app.
Once a minimum of 1,389 points were amassed, these could be exchanged for a voucher (1,389 points would've given you a voucher worth £5).
Customers could either choose a free membership, which limited the amount of points you could earn to 15 a day, or a 'Premium +' membership, which cost £14.99 a year and removed the daily cap on earning points.
However, on 28 October Bounts scrapped paid-for memberships and upped the daily cap so that all members are able to earn up to 180 points a day.
These points then give users access to 'challenges' in which rewards can potentially be won (although it's possible to complete a challenge and not win an award). An example of a challenge could be 'do 7,000 steps on five consecutive days'.
Campaign accuses Bounts of 'leaving members out of pocket'
Bounts' changes have not gone down well with certain users and a campaign has now been set up that's calling for an official investigation to be launched by regulatory bodies.
The individual behind the campaign, Bronwen Winter Phoenix, states: "Bounts has recently moved the goalposts of its service, leaving many members out of pocket, and in some cases with thousands of points they had built up over months and even years now rendered practically useless."
The campaign highlights that customers had not been warned in advance about the changes. It also claims customers who had taken out paid-for memberships had found their subscriptions had been stopped, with some of them struggling to get refunds.
Customers left confused over refunds policy
Bounts' Facebook and Twitter profiles disappeared on the same day that changes to the service were announced, meaning customers were only able to communicate with the company through online support and email.
Since then the Bounts Facebook page has reappeared. However, we've heard from a number of customers trying to claim refunds for paid-for memberships who have run into difficulty.
MoneySaver Chrissy says: "I requested a refund when the change first happened as I had purchased a three-year membership. I got both an automated reply saying it would be processed automatically, then a personal reply stating they weren't offering refunds.
"Following your updated article and their posting on the Facebook page that 'all refunds promised as part of the change are being processed', I got in touch again as I hadn't been contacted and was met with a message saying my account was suspended."
MoneySaver Anne C adds: "There are several comments on their Facebook page in demonstration of how they are misleading and confusing customers. In particular, they have taken to blocking customers from their email support who have asked for refunds, which is simply shocking."
What does Bounts say?
A spokesperson says: "I am very sorry that our changes have annoyed some people. It was certainly not our intention. We hoped they would enjoy taking part in the new challenges and redeeming Bounts points for rewards in the new way.
"We are refunding any payments made in October 2016 (the month of the change) and also redeeming any unused multi-year subscriptions on a pro-rata basis. We agreed to also refund members who made a request [for refunds] prior to the 14 October as described in our email, blog and social on 15 September. We will not be offering any other refunds other than these. All refund payments are being processed as quickly as we can."
You can contact Bounts via its online form to request a refund.
If you've had problems claiming a refund from Bounts, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.