BIKINI BODY BLOW: Customers hit back at fitness empire
THE Ashy Bines fitness empire has been hit by a torrent of complaints, with some upset customers accusing the company of taking unauthorised payments from credit cards and bank accounts.
The complaints range from women who claim they have been ripped off by paying for fitness programs they were later denied access to and others who say their criticisms or feedback posted online had been censored by staff.
Others say they have encountered significant delays or problems when trying to return items from the company's clothing line.
Gold Coast model and personal trainer Ashy Bines is the founder of the Ashy Bines Bikini Body Challenge fitness program and a range of other programs and apps including Squad and Booty.
She also sells activewear, clean eating plans and recipes, supplements and haircare items via her website ashybines.com.au.
But there's also a growing backlash against the business.
Claire Oakley, who contacted news.com.au, downloaded the Booty app in 2016 when the program was on sale.
She provided her banking details and unticked a pre-ticked box which would have signed her up for other promotions and memberships.
Ms Oakley did not receive any correspondence from the brand and only used the app several times before deleting it.
More than a year later, Ms Oakley was expecting her first child after taking a cut in wages when her card was declined due to insufficient funds while grocery shopping.
"I immediately looked at my bank, to see a transaction of around $40 for 'Ashy Bines'. I had absolutely no idea what this was for, knowing that I hadn't signed up for anything," she said.
"I went back through my transaction history, to find that every month, a similar amount had come out, never the same amount but around the $40 mark, totalling over $600.
"At first, I was so disappointed in myself for not picking it up. I blamed myself for being stupid enough to not notice that coming out of my bank."
After contacting the company, Ms Oakley was told the deductions had been for a subscription to "The Life" program - something she maintains she never signed up for.
"I still to this day have absolutely no idea what 'The Life' is, or how I was supposed to log in, or access it," she said.
"I then found out through research that 'The Life' doesn't actually exist anymore, and hasn't for several months, even while I was paying for the program. Again, no email or correspondence that would advise me of this.
"After several emails back and forth, it was evident that I was never going to get my money back."
She is now taking her case to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
"I don't know if I will ever be able to prove that I didn't sign up to the program, or if I'm not at fault, but for now I am $600 out of pocket for a program I not only never once used, but paid for while it didn't exist," she said.
Customer Ashley Nicholls said she too had been stung after purchasing the "Finishers" app - touted as "the new fun and effective fitness challenge by Ashy Bines" - by a one-off payment which was meant to guarantee "lifetime access".
Ms Nicholls paid $7 for the app. However, several months later her access was blocked after Finishers was absorbed by the "Squad" app, without notification from the company.
Ms Nicholls said she was not able to access the product she had paid for unless she then signed up for Squad - which cost $19.95 per month.
Another woman, Danielle, who contacted news.com.au and asked for her last name to be withheld, was also affected by the Finishers issue.
"How can you charge someone a 'one off, lifetime access' fee and then turn around and not honour it at least without offering a refund?" Danielle said.
"Their business seems to be based more about making a buck than providing the service or program paid for."
At the time of writing, news.com.au has been contacted by eight customers who also allege unauthorised bank deductions.
Five women have been affected by the Finishers app, and a further five said they had either been blocked from forums they had paid to be part of or had their comments deleted when making a complaint about the company.
Two reported issues with getting refunds from returned faulty or ill-fitting items, and dozens have reported rude or "intimidating" comments from company staff.
An Instagram account - "Ashy Bines Company Truths" - has been set up dedicated solely to publicising customer complaints.
A representative of Ashy Bines said the company was "an open book with nothing to hide".
"Out of the hundreds of thousands of happy and long term customers, sometimes the loudest are a very small percentage that may not be happy with the service or those that have not read the Terms and Conditions when signing up/purchasing," the representative said.
"Our T and Cs are clearly laid out and accessible on the appropriate website and in the Apple and Android App stores. A number of the concerns raised seem to be centred around misinformation without all of the facts of each individual customer/purchase.
"As a business, our number one focus is giving our clients a positive experience. Our strong community is built from repeat customers. Our intention is to always build our community and provide customers with the best possible service.
"If there has been any wrongdoing or mistakes, we will own up to that. In saying that, we are highly confident in our customer service and support teams ability. They are passionate individuals whose end goal aligns with ours, all wanting to make a difference by helping girls to lead and live a healthier and happier life."
The representative said comments were only deleted if they violated the company's anti-discrimination policies.
"If it is misused, or if people are mistreated, then those individuals will be removed so not to ruin it for the rest of them," the representative said.
Customers with any queries or complaints can contact the company here.
For support regarding the Toned activewear label, click here.