Gym memberships and your rights

Gymnasiums depend on the post-Christmas rush of people clamouring to hit the treadmills and rowing machines in an attempt to shed excess pounds. But many of the contracts we sign are packed with incomprehensible language, tortuous clauses, long notice periods and even the odd unfair term.

So just what are our rights to terminate the contract? Under what circumstances does a gym member have a case for arguing that their membership should end?

According to lawyers at DAS Law, who provide telephone legal-advice for lawontheweb, the UK’s leading website for free legal advice, these are the key points gym members should be aware of:

  1. If the gym closes or removes a facility which formed a significant part of its offering – for example, a swimming pool or steam room – this could be construed as a breach of contract by the gym. This gives you grounds on which to argue for a reduction in fees or contract termination
  2. If you have a fixed-term membership such as one year but your circumstances change in an unforeseeable way – a long-term illness, for example – you have grounds for immediate cancellation. This is because British courts have decided that some minimum terms of memberships are unfair, particularly where termination is prevented despite the consumer facing unforeseen circumstances
  3. Should a long-term illness permanently affect your ability to use the gym, you have the right to ask the gym to make modifications so that you can continue to use it if you wish
  4. An increase in your gym membership fee could result in a breach of contract, but it depends very much on the wording of your contract. The price rise will need to be large enough to show that it represents a significant departure from the original basis of the membership contract
  5. If you've signed a gym-membership contract but subsequently decide that one or more of its terms if unfair, you still have rights. In particular, the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 means that any contract signed after last October is subject to a test of fairness. If it is judged to be unfair, then it is void. An unnecessarily long contract, early termination fees, automatic renewals or punitive penalties may all be considered to be unfair under the Act. You can find out more about the Consumer Right Act here.

Holly Heath, Solicitor at DAS Law says: “The key with gym contracts is to read them carefully and only sign if you’re happy with them. If a specific clause seems unfair or inappropriate, ask the gym to remove it from your contract before you sign.

“If you do find that you need to terminate the contract early, check the contract to see if it covers your circumstances. Does it, for example, specify what happens if you are ill or lose your job. If it does not, then you have good grounds for a discussion with your gym to try to reach an agreement.”

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