Exercise your rights when joining a gym

If your new year’s resolution involves joining a gym, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has some advice to help you flex your consumer muscles.

Acting Attorney-General and Justice Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said it was important to understand your rights and responsibilities when signing up for a gym membership.

“While it can be easy to get caught up in ‘new year, new you’ enthusiasm, make sure you read your contract carefully before you agree to it,” he said.

“It’s illegal for gyms to have unfair contract terms in their standard form contracts, but consumers still need to do their homework.

“Add up how much it will cost to cancel your membership down the track, and ensure you understand the conditions of your contract.

“The fitness industry is regulated in Queensland, and gyms must offer you a 48-hour cooling-off period when you join.

“If you change your mind within this period, you must notify the gym in writing, and they can charge you a fee for any fitness service you used, such as a personal training session, plus an administration fee of up to $75 or 10 per cent of the membership fee.

“Even ‘no-contract’ or ‘month-to-month’ memberships may have fees or costs involved in cancelling your direct debit payments.”

Mr Hinchliffe said Queensland gyms were required to provide a written statement outlining total fees and charges in an easy to understand manner, before you signed a membership agreement.

“This statement must tell you about regular fees including the joining fee and any charges for services or programs, as well as any administrative or cancellation fees,” he said.

“If you have a dispute with a gym, try to sort it out with them directly. If this doesn’t work, you can complain to industry body Fitness Australia, if your gym is a member, or to the OFT.”

In 2016 the OFT took a gym owner to court after receiving nine consumer complaints. The owner was ordered to pay $80,000 in fines and restitution for wrongly accepting payments under the ACL after he moved the location of his gym and cut the services offered but continued to take money from members.

For more information on joining a gym, including the National Fitness Industry Code of Practice, or to make a complaint, visit www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.

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