Every January thousands of people sign up to their local gyms and fitness centres with the aim of working off those stubborn Christmas pounds and improving their fitness regimes.
Yet in their haste to fulfil New Years get fit resolutions, many will throw themselves into the rut of complex gym membership deals that are notoriously difficult to get out of – and could see you losing pounds in more ways than one.
While a new clampdown by the Office of Fair Trading has ensured that gym contracts are now more user-friendly, there are still hidden pitfalls ready to catch out the unsuspecting new gym goer.
Here is a guide to the ins-and-outs of gym memberships and what you should look out for before signing the dotted line.
1) Check the length of contract
Make sure you are fully aware of how long your contract is, as this will determine when you can cancel your membership should the need arise. Gym contracts should only be around 12 months maximum, which means you can cancel your membership within the first year at any time should your circumstances change.
Be careful when considering rolling contracts as these usually come with a higher fee, and if your membership is longer than 12 months, check you can cancel immediately after the first year giving so many days notice. Your contract will state what your rights to cancel are.
2) Cooling-off period
When you sign up for a gym membership there should be a strict time frame in which you can decide to cancel should you change your mind at last minute. These cooling-off periods usually last seven days, and as long as you haven’t used the gym you will not pay any fees if you decide to cancel.
3) Cancellation notice period
This is particularly important for those who often sign up for new fitness activities but then eventually give up a few months down the line. Most gyms will require members to give 30 days notice before cancelling their contract, so you should make sure you apply for cancellation at the right time to avoid paying another months’ worth of fees for facilities that you no longer want to use. Be warned that some gyms may charge cancellation fees, so make sure you check the contract terms and conditions before signing up. It is also advisable to get cancellation details in writing.
4) Change of circumstances
If for any reason you come under huge financial strain or experience health issues that affect your ability to use the gym facilities, you should be entitled to an early cancellation of your annual gym membership. If you are ill, a doctor’s note is usually sufficient evidence that you are no longer able to use your membership.
5) Service standards
If you feel the gym has failed to live up to their side of the contract agreement, you should be able to cancel without penalty and receive a full refund. For example, if you have signed up to use specific facilities and they close down or become inaccessible for a long period of time, you are essentially being charged unfairly. Thus you have the right – under consumer law – to cancel your contract on the grounds of service not being carried out with reasonable care and skill. On signing up to the gym, you should get this agreement in writing if it is not stated in the contract.