Why you need to think carefully before signing a gym contract

(Picture: Getty)

Signing up for a gym membership is something lots of people do in the January resolution burst – but it could end up making your life worse, not better.

Citizens Advice said it has dealt with nearly 3,500 problems around gyms, health clubs and fitness studios in the last year.

People can find they’re not getting what they expected, or find it hard to leave their contracts if they change their minds.

The charity urged people to think carefully before signing anything.

In the 12 months to the end of November 2017, the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline dealt with an average of around 197 cases per month.

Read all the information very carefully (Picture: Getty)

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Over the same period, 60,000 people looked up the ‘cancelling a gym membership’ advice pages of the charity’s website.

Kate Hobson, consumer expert at Citizens Advice, said: ‘At this time of year we’re bombarded with offers for health and fitness memberships, which can ask for a lot of money or commitment up front.

‘It’s really important to do your homework before you sign up to any gym, health club or fitness studio.

‘Make sure you know how long you’re committing for, how much it will cost you, and think about how often you’ll need to use it for it to make sense on your budget.’

What to think about before you sign

Here are some tips from Citizens Advice for people looking to spend money on getting fitter in the New Year:

  • Save the evidence – keep a copy of any adverts or special offers that attract you to that particular gym. Make sure that you are promised these features in writing, either in your contract or in an email.
  • Read the contract so you fully understand what you are committing to, how long for, and whether you can leave before the end of the contract.
  • Make sure that the contract is reasonable, for example that it is not tying you in for a very long time and that there are options to pause your membership or switch locations if necessary.
  • Know your cancellation rights – some gyms might offer a ‘cooling off’ period if you change your mind within 14 days of signing up. If the membership does not work for you or does not offer what you expect you may be able to pay an exit fee if you want to leave before the minimum term is up.
  • If your gym does not meet your expectations but they will not allow you to cancel, make a complaint to the company in writing.

Over a third (35%) of calls to the helpline were complaints about services not being up to scratch – including the gym being closed for long periods of time, classes being shorter than advertised, people struggling to book prepaid personal training sessions and poor quality facilities – including a fitness studio with no hot showers.

One in seven (14%) complaints the helpline dealt with was about terms and conditions, including many cases where people felt they were unfairly held in a contract, and nearly one in 10 (9%) about misleading claims – for example where people were promised bespoke exercise plans which never materialised, Citizens Advice said.

What does a run on the pound mean?

One man called Citizens Advice for help getting out of a 12-month contract after he was unable to use the gym as expected. He had to queue to use equipment and faced long waits in the changing rooms, the charity said.

Another woman turned to the charity after signing up to her local health club expecting it was going to be fully refurbished – but the improvements were never made, Citizens Advice said.

So think carefully before you commit.


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