December is notoriously the quietest month for gym attendances with works drinks and parties taking precedence during the Festive and New Year period. With all the over indulgence, for many comes the January remorse. New Year’s resolutions are made with the best intentions of a ‘fresh start’ in 2014. Top of the list for many will be a fitter and healthier ‘you’. The first port of call will be a return to the gym or joining a new gym. But what happens when the wave of enthusiasm for the gym wanes?
What have you actually been coaxed into signing up to? A 12, 24 or 36 month minimum term contract perhaps? The overly-enthusiastic sales member desperate to meet his lofty January sales target following a tumble weed year-end persuades you that the longer the contract the cheaper the monthly rate will be.
You do the maths and work out that you can afford the £50 a month membership, what’s £600 a year to look like Daniel Craig or Nicole Scherzinger on your next beach holiday? But then what happens if your circumstances change?
Fortunately for you the Office of Fair Trading has been fighting your corner for the last few years. The successful outcome of the case in the High Court against a gym management firm; OFT v Ashbourne Management Services Limited and others put into the spotlight some of the most unfair terms in gym membership contracts.
The case found that minimum membership periods of two and three years were unfair and that one year contracts were unfair if the member could not terminate the agreement for reasons such as redundancy, illness or injury. The Court found that members should not have to pay membership fees immediately and in full if they terminated their contract prior to the minimum membership period. The Court held such a requirement was unfair and amounted to a penalty.
Four of the biggest gym chains include Bannatyne Fitness, David Lloyd, Fitness First and Virgin Active. The gyms, following the OFT’s study have taken steps to ensure there is greater transparency from the outset when a customer signs up regarding length of membership periods and an individual’s cancellation rights.
The general theme across the gyms was that there would be more options for the type of membership they could sign up for. The market pressure from No-Contract, No-Frills gyms have forced the more expensive gyms to be more attractive to the consumer. Gyms such as Pure Gym which offer a no joining fee, rolling contract at more than half the price of the lavish gyms have really put their stamp on the marketplace.
So you have done your research, been round the gym, had the sales pitch, now you are sat down in a side office, direct debit details in hand, ready to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle, what should you be asking?
The advice on the OFT website is to make sure you can confidently answer the following four questions and appreciate the consequences:-
1. How long is the contract?
2. Can you cancel the contract early if your circumstances change or if you change your mind?
3. Will the contract be automatically extended after the initial membership period?
4. Do you have the time to go to the gym and can you afford the monthly payments?
We at Blacks deal with all aspects of commercial contracts, to include the drafting of contracts and any disputes arising therefrom.
Please contact Luke Patel
on 0113 227 9316
or by email at LPatel@LawBlacks.com