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OFT weighs into Total Fitness and orders them to revise membership agreements

Friday, 11th September 2009

Total Fitness UK has agreed to revise its membership agreements for customers, following intervention by the OFT.

The health club operator, which has 24 clubs in the UK, has given undertakings that it will change its terms and conditions to comply with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.


The amendments to a number of terms will lead to clearer and fairer membership agreements for consumers when they sign up for membership. The new agreements will:

  • contain clearer terms relating to the circumstances in which Total Fitness may seek to exclude or limit its liability for loss suffered by consumers
  • make clear that Total Fitness does not have absolute discretion to change its opening times, or change, reduce or cease facilities without providing any rights for the consumer, and
  • provide clearer information of the circumstances in which a consumer may cancel their agreement.

As well as changing terms for new members, Total Fitness has also agreed not to enforce any of the contested terms in existing membership agreements.

If the undertakings are breached the OFT can seek a court order, which if not adhered to, can result in proceedings for contempt of court.

Mike Haley, OFT Director of Consumer Protection, said:

'Gym agreements, like any other consumer contract, must be balanced, fair and understandable. We have worked closely with Total Fitness to secure these changes and we believe that consumers will find the new membership agreements much clearer and fairer.'

NOTES

1. Total Fitness (UK) Ltd owns 24 clubs in the UK within the North of England, Wales and Dublin, including Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Hull.

2.  The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (UTCCRs) protect consumers against unfair standard terms in contracts they make with traders. The OFT, together with certain other bodies, can take legal action to prevent the use of such terms. The UTCCRs can protect consumers from terms that reduce their statutory or common law rights and from terms that seek to impose unfair burdens on the consumer over and above the obligations of ordinary rules of law.

3. The Enterprise Act 2002 provides powers to obtain court orders against traders that breach a range of consumer legislation.

oft.gov.uk

DebtWizard comment

I am seeing an increase in consumers being chased by debt recovery firms for stopping payment of membership fees.

Anyone that feels their membership terms and conditions are unfair should inform the relevant gym and any firm that has been instructed to pursue the debt that this alleged debt is in dispute. If the matter continues then I advise contacting the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or your local trading standards officer. 

I would not surprised if the majority of gym membership contracts currently in use are similar to those of the previous Fitness First previous contracts. If this is the case then the OFT may well get involved. Remember, in any event, no business really wants the OFT opening files to see what they have been up to.

Just click on any of the following to understand more about your consumer rights;

Harassment, know your rights

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Debt Collection Guidelines

Credit Services Association (CSA) Debt Collection Guidelines

Credit Services Associations (CSA) List of Members

Office of Fair Trading contact details 

We have now formed a guidance document when dealing with firms chasing you for cancelled membership fees.

Although it’s really not our place to give legal advice this article should give you some grounding – do your own research and stand your ground. If more people stood up for their rights it won’t take long for the clubs to amend their contracts and the cowboys will go out of business.

DebtWizard guide to Gym Membership Fees

 

 

 

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