Thinking of joining a gym? Check out your rights to cancel first …
Joining a gym is a terrific way to maintain fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
But the problems of gym contracts is one of the most common complaints we see at A Spokesman Said.
There are a lot of gyms around and the whole fitness market is highly competitive.
That’s why there are quite a few unscrupulous operators out there, only too keen to take your money.
But, when it comes to leaving, you can find yourself in a sweat battling the small print and an inflexible management.
Here’s our guide based on all we’ve learned from others’ nightmare experiences – stuff that can help ensure you have a painless experience when you decide a gym is no longer for you.
How to join a gym and not get caught out
When you talk to staff at the gym, take everything they say with a pinch of salt. And we mean everything.
The chances are they are straightforward and honest.
Then again, they are probably on commission for signing you up, so they may not want to tell everything like it is.
Bottom line – the only thing that matters is what the contract says.You must read this thoroughly and ask about anything that isn’t clear.
If you join and decide to leave before your contract expires, be prepared to pay for the time your contract still has to run.
If you have good reason for leaving, then many gyms will be reasonable and let you either suspend membership or cancel without penalty.
Valid reasons will be in the contract.
But, otherwise, you might as well be ready to pay because, if that’s what you signed up to, the gym is entitled to charge and many will.
If you try and simply walk away, don’t be surprised if, ultimately, you’re chased by debt collectors.
Make sure you scrupulously observe notice periods.
If the contract says you need to give 30-days notice or two months, then do that and ensure you have a record of doing it.
Again, the terms will be in the contract and once that’s signed, you can be held to the terms.
Never assume that a conversation that results in an agreement to cancel or that you won’t have to pay any further fees and so on, is valid. A conversation doesn’t leave a record. Get important agreements in writing, every time.
If you agree something verbally, follow it up in writing and state that this is to confirm our discussion in which it was agreed that …
When joining a gym, it's crucial you make sure you know what you've signed up to
Don’t let a gym bully you by telling you you can’t cancel without penalty if you’re ill or injured. It doesn’t matter what the contract says, you absolutely can!
The injury or illness will have to be serious, however, and something that stops you from exercising, and you’l probably need the written evidence of a doctor to prove your case.
If you’re refused, speak to the manager and then put it in writing, pointing out that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has ruled that a gym contract that doesn’t allow cancellation in these circumstances is unfair.
This also goes for a change in your circumstances that means you can no longer afford to pay for your membership.
This reason isn’t so clear cut as having a doctor’s letter saying you’re no longer fit to exercise. Obviously just saying you can’t afford membership anymore is a bit vague, so the change in circumstances needs to be significant, like the loss of a job or you suddenly discover you are in deep debt.
And you’ll almost certainly have to prove all this.
But, again, the CMA says a contract will be ruled to be unfair if it doesn’t allow penalty-free cancellation in the event of a significant change in circumstances that means someone can no longer afford the payments.
Speak to the manager and put everything in writing so there can be no doubts about what is agreed.
Not all contracts will stand up in law and if you think yours is unfair, you can challenge it. If you can show any of the following, the gym should let you cancel without penalty.
* Your contract has auto-renewed without notice and without your permission (don’t agree to auto renewal when you initially sign up).
* The minimum contract is more than a year.
* The price of membership has gone up significantly during your membership period.
If you believe you have a case, put it in writing.
Citizens Advice suggests the following wording:
If your contract started before 1 October 2015, you should write:
“The term in the contract that’s preventing me from cancelling is an “unfair term” under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. It should be removed from the contract, allowing me to cancel my membership.”
If your contract started on or after 1 October 2015, you should write:
“The term in the contract that’s preventing me from cancelling is an “unfair term” under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It should be removed from the contract, allowing me to cancel my membership.”
If you think you’re being treated unfairly, then get in touch with us at A Spokesman Said with the details of your case.
We're in your corner.