Problems When Terminating Gym Contracts
So you've decided to get fit. That's great, and there are many ways to do it. One of the most obvious these days is to join a gym. After all, it has all the equipment you need, and having to pay good money to go somewhere to exercise with others will give you the motivation you need.In theory it's a wonderful idea. All too often, though, those ideas will translate into action for a few weeks, and then slowly the attendance at the gym will tail off. But you've taken out a membership. If you're not using the gym, do you still have to pay for it?
Your ContractYou might not realise it, but when you take out a gym membership, you're really signing a credit agreement. That means they're for a set period (usually a year), and you agree to pay a certain amount each month. Cancelling your membership doesn't end the credit agreement - outrageously, even if the gym cancelled your membership you might still be liable to pay!
The problem could come if your circumstances change. For a woman that might mean pregnancy, or you may have a new job, or even be moving to a different part of the country. You might believe, reasonably enough, that these changes mean you can cancel your membership without penalty. The chances are that you're wrong. It depends on your contract, of course, but the odds are that you'll still be liable to pay for the length of the contract.
Nor can you change simply because you've changed your mind about wanting to be a member (if that were the case, many gyms would have a small membership).
Be very wary of gyms offering free membership. All too often they're simply a way to get you in, and you'll still end up signing a binding contract in order to use the facilities.
What To DoThe best protection is to read the contract thoroughly before you sign it. If you're not sure, take it home with you to study at your leisure. Under no circumstances should you sign at the gym if you're not absolutely certain it's the right thing to do. Make sure you understand everything before signing.
If you ask, the gym has to provide you with a copy of its terms and conditions. If you've joined online or by phone - and people do - then you have the right to a seven day cooling-offer period during which you can cancel your membership without any penalty.
Ending Your MembershipIf you want to end your membership, look at your contract. If you don't have a copy, ask the gym to give you one - it's something they're legally bound to do. If the service and facilities at the gym have not been satisfactory, you might be able to cancel without penalty.
Under most circumstances, however, you might be tied in. Even worse, there might be an automatic renewal clause in the contract, under which your contract is renewed unless you tell the gym otherwise. Pay very close attention to the amount of notice you need to give; it may be one month, it might be longer. Give written notice, send it by recorded mail, and keep a copy.
Frustratingly, you really need to keep making the payments, even if you're in the middle of a dispute with the gym. Pay until the contract has ended. That can seem self-defeating, but if you stop your direct debit you could end up responsible for the outstanding balance and other fees. It's worth telling both the gym and your bank that you're paying under protest.