Is the weight over for better gym contracts?

by , Money Researcher Money 8 March 2013
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How’s that ‘get fit’ resolution working out for you? Are you still going to the gym, or are the only pounds dropping off the ones from your bank account? Soon, your cancellation rights could be strengthened.

Gym contract

If the March malaise is kicking in and you’re starting to regret joining the gym, chances are you’re thinking about cancelling your contract.

The thing is that the process of cancelling a gym contract has traditionally been fraught with problems. For example, there was the case of a couple whose gym payments put a jobless man and his heavily pregnant wife at risk of homelessness.

Working out gym contract T&Cs

I know plenty of people who moan and groan about the trouble of cancelling gym memberships.

Everyone knows you should carefully read the terms and conditions before you sign up. But spotting all potential problems, penalties, notice periods and automatic renewals is easier said than done.

The first time you know the ins and outs of these terms is often when you want to cancel. That’s why we want gyms to be more transparent about their T&Cs and make them concise, jargon free and easy to understand.

Exercising your cancellation rights

The good news is that three gyms – Bannatynes, David Lloyd Leisure and Fitness First – have just agreed to do something about it. After an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, these gyms will be changing their contracts to make them more transparent and give their members better cancellation rights. These rights include:

  • Extended rights for members to cancel their contracts early should their circumstances change in a way that makes attendance at their gym difficult or unaffordable – for example if they lose their jobs or suffer an injury.
  • A commitment not to describe membership as being of a fixed duration, if the contract automatically continues on a rolling basis after the initial membership period has expired.
  • Greater transparency about key membership features, including initial membership periods and cancellation rights, and for these to be provided upfront as part of the sales process.

I’m sure we’ll all agree that this is to be welcomed – it’s just a shame that the OFT, which is now turning its attention to other gym operators, had to step in. Only time will tell whether these changes will help gym-goers stop sweating about their memberships.

Were you given enough information about your cancellation rights when you first signed up for a gym membership? Have you had problems trying to cancel?

12 comments

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Gal Flex

Everyone knows gyms are well for girls and that. If you’ve got a bit of space like a lean-to or a lock up and that, then you can get some proper gear and get ripped and that. I’ve get a load of whey protein down me gregory and I’m good to go, like. I do 50 reps at 100kg on me pecs and that and then me abs and then me lats. I don’t not any of that cardio stuff cause I smoke about 70 a day and running and that makes me cough and that. Global warming, innit. I am now proper ripped and never been to a gym in my life. The motto is you don’t need no contract when you got a shed full of gear and the motivation to get well ripped. I am ripped. Nuff said.

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rarrar

While many businesses are reasonable or flexible about T&Cs and concerned about good PR and customer relations the gyms appear to be immune and see the income from cancellation ( or not) charges as part of their planned profits.

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adb

Sure we are responsible for reading T&C’s ahead of signing on the dotted line; in reality, they are complicated, one wd be better off with a degree in statistics & this campaign cannot come too soon – thank you, Which? As current David Lloyd members, we will be checking out how soon they act on this!

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Distrubbed

The main problem for me is the contractual lock in. I think the problem with gym memberships is that they do not reflect what the average customer wants, I want to go to a gym when I want, not feel pressured because I am paying an annual charge, for me it is generally a burst to get back up to a specific level then maintenance training, I want to see staff that are available and happy to recommend a better way of carrying out a particular exercise or class to get maximum benefit rather than just walking past or going through the motions. Then there is the problem that the facilities become tired and dirty or in some cases unsafe. I have left at least 3 gyms for this reason.

I would rather pay a little more when I go than a standing yearly charge with a contractual lock in, and go to a gym with clean maintained equipment and staff with knowledge of the best methods of training not just the latest fad.

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Darren

I was a gym member for several years but my lifestyle changed and I wasn’t going to the gym very much any more. On canceling the contract this several years of loyalty was met with a mandatory 3 months notice period totaling £130. I understand gyms having a starter period lock in but after over 3 years membership I felt this was disgraceful exploitation and for that reason I would not join a gym that had a long notice period. The OFT stepping in is long overdue.

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crumbs

Last year, I cancelled my monthly payments after my year’s contract with Anytime Fitness was up, as I had moved out of the area. Three month’s later I was informed by AF that I was in arrears. I was told that payments continued as a rolling contract and I had to give a month’s notice from when the contract ended. This wasn’t made explicit at my time of joining. They waived the arrears out of goodwill, but not without a ticking off to read the small print before signing on the dotted line. I really liked the gym, so it was a disappointment to feel like I was being taken for a ride.

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samueljay

I used to work as club sales manager for a well know chain of health clubs. The public need to be aware that gym contracts are NOT enforceable in the courts like a credit card. A gym contract is not a credit agreement so health clubs would never take you to court to collect the debt and cannot register your debt against your credit record. You can simply cancel your direct debit and inform the gym that you will not be paying. They have no powers to enforce the debt, only to send threatening letters.

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Sharpehunter

Interesting point raised by Samueljay. The membership agreement is not a Credit Agreement or a contract for finance. As such I don’t really see what a gym could do to force you to meet the terms of the contract other than pursue it through legal channels which I am pretty confident would be counter productive due to the expense.

There is of course also the fact that in these days of social media which essentially empowers the consumer and makes a customer who is social media adept a pretty formidable enemy.

One of my friends has been advised by his employer that they are relocating him to the Middle East (fantastic career opportunity) and he has openly discussed this with a certain large gym chain. Typically they are adamant that he has to maintain his fee payments and there is no way out. He has simply written and advised that he will be out of the country within 1 month, will not have a UK bank account or residential address and as such they can either take 1mths payment as notice or nothing at all. I will let you all know what the response is.

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MickeyRobbo

I’ve been a member of Bannatynes for around 6 years and have never had an issue with the company. However, three months ago I moved 60 miles south of my club and it made sense to try and ‘move’ my membership to the same chain out of loyalty. It was only 5 miles away from my work and so it made sense. However, after a month or so – I discovered that the traffic is so bad, that it takes me around an hour to get there!

So, I called to cancel. My original terms for cancellation before my move was one month, but was told that as my new Bannatynes was a larger club, the terms were different too and that I needed to give three months notice. They did offer me a ‘one time’ offer of 20% discount for the three months and if paid for it all in one go, I would be able to leave today.

Why the hell would I want to pay for three months gym membership at a gym I won’t be using?? I suppose my question is, what would happen if;

a) I complained to the OFT (though this could take months)
or
b) I simply cancelled my Direct Debit (would it affect my credit?)

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jon48

I have been a member of Bannatynes for over 2 years, but because I have not been using the facility decided to cancel my membership in May. I wrote to Bannatynes to tell them I was cancelling the membership, and stopped my standing order payment.
They then wrote to me initially to tell me that they had not received my payment for the Month of May, then to tell me they had received the cancellation request and that I had to give them three months notice so my membership would be cancelled at the end of August, up until such time I had to pay the monthly fee.
I let that ride for a couple of months but decided today that I should call into the gym to sort out the cancellation.
I explained that I thought the initial notice of 3 months only applied in the first year of membership, and once that first year had been exceeded I should only have to give one month’s notice.
I was told no that was not the case and the three months notice applied regardless of how long I had been a member.
Imagine my surprise when I was then informed that in fact, if I was joining today on a new contract I would only have to give a month’s notice ……. However because I was on the old contract the three month’s notice period applied to my membership! I did pay as I did not want to get into a legal row with Bannatynes, however I do think that this is grossly unfair, and that any changes to the contract should apply to all members regardless of length of membership!

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OPAT

I took out a special fixed term 5 month deal with David Lloyds and paid upfront. I’m not a great gym user and barely used it, in fact, i didn’t go at all for the last six weeks. A month before the end of the contract, I received a letter about continuing my membership, it might have mentioned a notice period as well, but as I no longer have the letter, am not sure. I assumed that as it was a fixed term and I’d paid upfront, that there was no further action on my part. How wrong I was. I have been chased by Lloyds for a months membership at full cost. I looked at my contract, and it does state that if I do not give 30 days notice, it is assumed that I wish to continue and extend the membership. This was not explained to me by the Lloyds rep at the time I took out membership. However, how can they assume that I wished to continue membership when they could quite easily see from there records that I have not used the facilities for the last 6 weeks. They have left messages on my home phone a number of times, and I have now received a letter from a debt collection agency threatening court action as I have not responded to correspondence sent by David Lloyds. They have also added another £70.00 costs. I feel really aggrieved with the situation and feel that David Lloyds are trying to extort money from me. It all seems so wrong. Any advice would be most gratefully appreciated.

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Bee

I moved to Essex from the Isle of Wight and took out a years gym membership at bannatynes. About 5 months later I lost my job and had to move back to the Isle of Wight. (Where there is no Bannatynes, I’d have to get a ferry to get to one). I have cancelled my DD and told Bannatynes my situation and they are threatening to take me to a small claims court. Has anyone actually been taken to court by them? I’m not sure what to do…

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