So you have decided to join a gym in the New Year but how do you decide which gym is right for you? Before you sign up to a gym membership, The Office of Fair Trading says you should be aware of the following when signing up for a gym membership.
Don’t be pressured into signing up on the spot. Visit a number of gyms to work out which is the best value for money, has the best facilities, service and location for you. Consider trying a casual membership for a month or a few visits to see if the gym is right for you.
Be cautious of ‘great deals’
Be wary of special offers, promotions and verbal promises. Some deals may not be as good as they seem, once you read the fine print.
Read the fine print
Never take the salesperson’s word for it. Always take the gym contract home and read all the terms and conditions before you sign it. Know what you are getting into before you commit. Check the fees listed on the contract are the same as the price that has been quoted to you. Also check the administration fees for setting up or renewing your membership. These are non-refundable even if you cancel the contract during the cooling-off period.
Check the cooling-off period
Check if the contract has a cooling-off period which allows you to cancel the membership in writing within a limited time period.
Where will you be in 6 to 12 months?
The gym may not be easy to access if you change jobs, work different hours or move house and you may still be locked into the contract for months to come. Consider a 3 or 6-month membership – they are often no more expensive than a 12-month one.
Fitness centres in NSW are not allowed to accept pre-paid fees in excess of 12 months so you shouldn’t be asked to pay for more than 12 months at a time.
The Fitness Services (Pre-paid Fees) Act 2000 spells out how a fitness centre must deal with pre-paid fees. The law is designed to limit losses suffered by gym members should their fitness centre close without warning. In past years, sudden fitness centre closures left many people out of pocket who paid their fees in advance, only to find that they had lost their money.
Many gyms ask for payments by direct debit. Just because your membership expires doesn’t mean the direct debits stop. You often need to provide the gym with 30 days written notice to stop the direct debit deductions. Check the contract before you sign. If the fitness centre continues taking payments, talk to your financial institution.
Cancelling your membership
If you need to cancel your membership, check your contract to see what is required. Even if the contract requires you to visit the centre to cancel in person, it is also wise to do it in writing. Then you can prove the date you requested for the membership to end. Remember, a membership means you have a binding agreement and you may have difficulty cancelling early. Some gyms charge up to $300 for cancelling a membership, so read the terms and conditions in your contract before you sign.
Check if the gym is a member of Fitness Australia at www.fitness.org.au or call 1300 211 311. If it is a member it must comply with the NSW Fitness Code of Practice. The Code requires members to give you a copy of the signed contract, provide a 7-day cooling-off period (if the contract is over 3 months), ensure employees are registered fitness professionals, allow you to cancel contracts in certain circumstances such as serious illness (fees may still apply) and resolve complaints quickly and fairly.
If things go wrong
If you have a dispute with a gym, check if it is a member of Fitness Australia. If the gym is a member, Fitness Australia will help negotiate your dispute if you submit it to them in writing. If the gym is not a member of Fitness Australia or you cannot resolve the issue, call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or visit www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au for help and advice.
Follow all these great tips to find the right gym for you. Remember, going to the gym should be ideally more like a long relationship and not a one night stand. Ask if you can trial the gym and start off slowly to decide whether you want to make a longer term commitment.