It’s that time of year again, and gyms are luring in consumers with some variation of “get your beach body ready for summer” slogans. Of course, signing up for a gym membership has its benefits and provides you with extra drive and motivation to improve fitness and health. However, amidst all the excitement of signing a new gym membership and starting your fitness journey, you should consider some things before you sign. This article will outline certain things you should be looking out for in a gym contract.

Don’t Succumb to Pressure

First of all, try not to surrender to the pressures of signing up to a gym contract. A lot of the time this is easier said than done. However, if you have done your research and know what you are looking for in a gym contract, you will be more confident and know better than to sign up right away.

Do your research by shopping around – have a look at what is going on near you. Doing this gives you a better idea of how much gyms are charging in your area and the different contract terms they offer. When you are shopping around, look out for the below items in your contract.

Standard Form Contracts

Most gym contracts offer a “standard form contract” that contains standard terms and conditions. Accordingly, it is unlikely the gym is going to amend certain terms to make the contract suit you personally. However, gyms have been known to make little tweaks here and there to lock-in a new member. Therefore, the more you know, the better positioned you are to negotiate and have the contract amended to suit you.

Unfair Terms

It is also of note that you are not rendered completely powerless in relation to standard form contracts. The Australian Consumer Law (Cth) (ACL) forbids unfair contract terms. A term that is considered “unfair” under the ACL will be rendered void (cancelled). What this means, practically, is that the whole contract will continue to have force, but it will exclude the unfair term.

Under the ACL, a term in a standard form contract may be unfair if it:

  1. can cause a significant imbalance between you and the gym);
  2. is not reasonably necessary to protect the gym; or
  3. may cause detriment (financial or otherwise) to you.

It is of note that only a Court can determine whether a contract term is unfair.

Cooling-off Period

Checking whether there is a cooling-off period is a good first point of call. Usually, a gym contract will allow you a 14-day cooling-off period. This is good news for anyone who did succumb to signing up to a contract without reading the contract in full.

Locations

Many gyms are a franchise or are a chain of gyms. However, if you sign up for a gym in the suburbs, you sometimes aren’t allowed to use the gym in the CBD. Depending on your gym contract you can be obliged to pay an extra fee to have the CBD location added to your gym membership. If you are planning on visiting the gym at its various locations, ensure you check what the contract says about this before you sign.

Length of the Gym Contract

You should consider signing up for a shorter period to begin with, if you have the option to do so. This will give you more flexibility to cancel or renew the contract.

Auto-Renewals

Check what the renewal options of your gym contract are. Once you have completed the minimum duration period, your contract may automatically renew. At times, the contract may automatically renew with new or different terms. This is not automatically considered unfair, so make sure you are wary of this and know how to end the contract if you are not happy with the new terms.

Direct Debit

Many gyms prefer a direct debit option. However, it is usually available to you to choose whether you would like to proceed on a direct debit or monthly payment basis.

Be wary of the direct debit withdrawals, though – just because your membership expires, does not mean the direct-debit also stops. More often than not, you will need to provide the gym with a 30-day written notice to stop the direct debit deduction. Ensure that you promptly address any instance where the gym continues to charge you after the contract has ended.

Termination Clause

Different gyms offer different requirement notices, cancellation fee or that you come in and visit the centre before you withdraw your membership – or they may even require all of the above.

Unless the termination clause is unreasonable or unfair, unfortunately, you do have to respect the terms of your gym membership contract.

Think You’re Getting a Bad Deal?

If you think you’re getting a bad deal, it is a good idea to lodge a complaint with the Australia Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). In 2013 and 2014, the ACCC reviewed many gym contracts, to which many gyms complied with and others did not. It is, therefore, important you keep dodgy deals on the radar of the ACCC. Otherwise, see a lawyer about your contract.   

Key Takeaways

Once you sign an agreement with your gym, you do have to honour your side of the contract. Therefore, be alert and make it your priority to read the fine print and understand the terms of the contract. Contact LegalVision’s lawyers to assist you any concerns you may have with your gym contract. Call us on 1300 544 755.

Esther Mistarz

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