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What to Do When Things Go Wrong

28 April

What to do When Gym Membership Deals Go Wrong!

Cancel your Gym Membership - MatrixCancelling a gym membership contract can be a little complex at times so here is a great article by “the Money Saving Expert” website on how to cancel and also what to look out for before taking out a new plan. We have also added our tips on How to Cancel your gym membership below that.

Sadly, if you’ve signed up to a year’s contract and simply ‘don’t fancy it any more’, you’re unlikely to be able to quit the gym early. So think very carefully before signing up to a contract.

In some very rare cases, you may able to get it cancelled. The Office of Fair Trading has laid out guidelines on unfair terms in health and fitness club memberships. While the guidance is aimed at gyms rather than consumers, it may help you negotiate with the club in certain circumstances.

            Lengthy contracts of more than one year – In 2011 the High Court ruled that it was unfair for gyms to tie in members for more than one year (see Tens of thousands can cancel gym memberships news story). If your contract is longer than one year, you may be able to challenge it.

            The club makes big changes to services – The OFT’s guidelines say contracts are unfair if they allow clubs to ‘supply something different from what was agreed’, unless the change is minor. So if, for example, your gym closes its creche, or the opening hours change, you may be able to leave.

            Unclear wording on membership terms – The OFT tells gyms that contracts should clearly explain minimum membership periods and notice periods. If the wording’s unclear, you may have a case.

            The gym hikes prices – If your contract says the club’s allowed to make unrestricted membership fee hikes, this is likely to be considered unfair.

            The gym automatically renews your membership – The guidance says it’s unfair to automatically extend contracts, relying on people’s inertia or ignorance.


How to cancel your gym membership

Cancelling a membership should in reality be as easy as taking out a new gym membership, sadly that is not always the case and so here are some tips to help you if you should need to cancel your membership in the future.

  • Before you join a gym make sure you read the membership agreement carefully before you sign it. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for shorter term contract.
  • It takes at least 30 days to cancel the average gym membership even if you are at the end of your contract terms.
  • Make sure you read and know the cancellation terms set out in your membership agreement.
  • Cancel in writing and send your cancellation letter registered post so you can prove when you sent it. Send a copy of your cancellation letter to the head office as well as the club manager if you are dealing with a group operator.
  • Make sure you cancel your direct debit payment at the bank when you cancel with your club. Not all clubs are very organised and they may take a direct debit payment by “mistake”.
  • Most clubs will let you cancel if you have been made redundant or have moved permanently to a different part of the country but you will need to prove it. Clubs will usually let you freeze your membership if you are ill for a prolonged period but may not let you cancel – check your membership agreement.

Here is some more great advice from “the money saving expert” website that might be useful if you need to complain. This is primarily for UK residents although many tips apply to gyms worldwide.


How to complain

If your gym’s breaching the contract or it contains unfair terms, you’ve every right to fight back.

Step 1: Complain in person?- When starting a complaint it’s best to not go militant unless you have to. The first easy step is to go to reception and explain that you want to cancel.

Step 2: Complain in writing?- If the gym won’t play ball, write a complaint letter and send it to the head office. Send all letters by recorded delivery, so you can prove they received it, and always save a copy. ?Your letter should mention any unfair contract terms you think your contract may have. If you meet silence or the response is rubbish, write again and be persistent. For information or advice, try calling Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.

Step 3: Complain to the FIA?- Gyms that are members of the Fitness Industry Association (FIA) must sign up to its code of practice. Members also agree to stick to the OFT’s guidelines on unfair contracts.?If your gym’s a member and you have not had any luck complaining directly, try contacting the FIA. As a trade association, it can offer further advice and in some cases may contact the gym on your behalf. This is worth a try, as it’s free.

Step 4: If all else fails: take ’em to court?- Hopefully you will settle it, but if you strongly believe in your case, have tried all the steps above and it still won’t cancel your contract, taking it to the small claims court is a last resort, although it isn’t for everyone. If you’re a court novice, try to seek help from an informed friend or advice centre. Yet before you get legal on their butts, you’re expected to try to resolve things directly, and ideally send a ‘letter before action’ to say you are going to take them to court. If you don’t try, the judge is likely to look unfavourably on your case, so always use the steps above first. For more on small claims rules, see the How to Complainguide.

….More at Cheap Gyms

Related Reading – What to Watch out For in Gym Membership Contracts 


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Andrew Kitching