/ Health

Is the weight over for better gym contracts?

Gym contract

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.

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?

Comments
Guest
Gal Flex says:
8 March 2013

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
adb says:
8 March 2013

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!

Guest
Distrubbed says:
9 March 2013

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.

Guest
Darren says:
10 March 2013

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.

Guest
crumbs says:
10 March 2013

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.

Guest

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.

Guest
jherts says:
29 April 2015

Interesting points made. Take David Lloyd for example they then pass your debt onto debt collectors – what happens then? What can the debt collectors do and how far would they go to retreive the money?

Thanks

Guest
Sharpehunter says:
10 April 2013

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.