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Monday, 14th September 2009
Gyms make a significant proportion of their money from members who join but who rarely use the facilities. Long termination or ‘notice’ periods keep membership levels high because it makes it more difficult to cancel. Most clubs require a minimum 12 month initial contract and follow with a 3 month notice period required to cancel. It’s obvious why clubs want these clauses in the contracts, but increasingly the City regulator are finding against them and the question remains – are the contracts enforceable in court?
If you give notice to quit and cancel your direct debit then expect contact from the club followed by letters and phone calls from debt collection companies and legal firms demanding payment.
If you’ve hit financial difficulties, let’s say you’ve used the gym but not met your payments, your rights are limited because they are collecting payment for a service already rendered.
A consumer has certain rights as detailed under the FCA Debt Collection Guidelines.
Breach of Contract re gym membership fees
Your membership agreement will probably state that there is a notice period. If you give notice and do not honour the notice period they will probably expect you to pay for the months specified in the notice period.
Some experts say they can’t do this saying they can only claim for their losses and they need to prove these losses; they must also try to minimise these losses.
Quality of Service and Standards
In the past the OFT recently found that many gym agreements were unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. This doesn’t make the whole agreement unenforceable, just the sections that are unfair. See our article on. OFT weighs into Total Fitness and orders them to revise membership agreements
If however you could argue that the standards fell below an acceptable level that either didn’t justify the fees charged or meant you were unable to use the club then you stand on even stronger ground.
Examples could include a change in opening times meaning you couldn’t use the club at a time you used to, a reduction in facilities or staff levels. These would all be good reasons to terminate the contract without providing further notice.
Enforceability of gym membership fees
Read the news article dated 31 May 2011 - High Court rules that thousands of gym contracts are unfair and unenforceable
What should you do?
It’s really not our place to give legal advice, although this article should give you some grounding, continue to do your own research.
Your credit file
Finally, ensure your credit file has not been marked down as non payment as you may never hear from the gym again but they may have put something detrimental on your file. You may need to check this on a regular basis, we show you how to do this here. How to see your credit file.