It’s that time of year again. The annual new year rush to join the gym. Health and fitness clubs will sign up more members in January than at any other time of year, and in your enthusiasm to join, you will probably sign there and then without reading through the all important Ts and Cs of the contract. You will then get to Easter, realise you’ve only been three times and want to cancel.

Many people have found themselves in this situation and been shocked to discover they have signed up to an initial 12 month minimum term, which cannot be cancelled. Those slightly better off face a three month notice period or an extortionate cancellation fee, but in each case, most people say they would not have joined if they had known about these terms. For years, the OFT have been keeping a close eye on contracts for gym membership with reference to this lack of clarity concerning membership, cancellation and other unfair terms. But above all, the advice is to read and fully understand what you are signing – because there is no cooling off period.

  • Take the time to read through the Ts and Cs. Take it away if necessary – it is your right to have reasonable opportunity to familiarise yourself with the contractual terms before signing.
  • Take particular note of clauses in relation to tie-ins, notice periods and cancellation penalties. Do not mistake the notice period for cancellation with the length of the contract.
  • If the contract contains clauses which refer to automatic membership renewal, ask for this to be removed, or make a note of the date by which you should inform them.
  • By law, the contract must be presented in simple, jargon-free language. if you are unsure about anything ask for full clarification
  • A contract is a two-way process. Don’t be afraid to ask certain clauses to be struck out if they seem unreasonable or you are not happy.
  • Take extra care with introductory offers and special deals. Clubs may waive their joining fee but still charge you the equivalent as an ‘admin’ fee. Always read the small print.