Our New Year’s resolutions are music to a gym’s ears. In today’s fitness craze, the need for a platform to get involved has increased dramatically and what better place to get that summer body and carry out those ‘get fit and healthy’ resolutions than at a gym. Before getting caught up in the excitement of your new found passion, take a moment to consider the fine print squeezed into gym contracts.
Do not sign up to the first gym that waves a January discount in your face, take your time and decide what you actually want from a gym and which facility can best cater for your long term fitness goals. Weigh up all your options after taking into consideration various factors such as location, budget, amenities and so on.
Almost all gyms, yoga- and Pilates studios, as well as other forms of exercise facilities, offer standard form contracts with similar standard terms and conditions which are unfortunately not personally tailored to each and every member.
It is important to remember that a gym contract is the same as any other consumer agreement and thus the Consumer Protection Act, 68 of 2008 (the “Act”), is applicable to such contracts. The Act forbids grossly unfair contract terms and a term that is considered as such under the Act will be rendered void and will be unenforceable against the consumer (you).
In terms of Section 48 of the Act a term may be unfair if the term:
- Is so unfair, unreasonable or unjust that it causes a significant imbalance between the consumer (you) and the gym;
- Unreasonably protects the gym to the detriment of the consumer (you);
- Was agreed to by the consumer (you) while relying on false, misleading or deceptive representations made thereto by the gym.
Another important term to look out for in your gym contact is the clause providing for a cooling-off period. In terms of Section 16 of the Act, gym contracts must provide for a minimum of a 5 day cooling-off period. This is a beneficial term for those of us who signed gym contracts during the hype of the New Year resolution pressures and therefore did not read the full contract before signing.
Make sure you are aware of the length of the gym contract as it is common practice for such contracts to be 1 or 2 year terms with an automatic renewal included in it. Some contracts may automatically renew on different terms that you may not be happy with. The Act states that the maximum length of a fixed term contract such as a gym contract is 24 months and should the contract renew automatically the gym is obligated to inform you of any material changes to the terms of the contract. Therefore, make sure that you are aware of these clauses and know how to terminate the contract if need be and the potential cancellation fee related thereto.
Most gym contracts work with direct debit orders but it is still your choice to request a monthly payment option. Once your contract terminates make sure that it does not specifically require you to request the gym to stop the direct debit orders, otherwise the deductions may continue regardless of the fact that the contract has been terminated.
Termination clauses differ the most from gym to gym and can require notices and/or cancellation fees and, unless the terms contained therein are unfair as defined above, you will be bound by them. If you genuinely believe that you are getting a bad deal then you may lodge a complaint in terms of Section 69 of the Act.
At the end of the day, once you have signed a gym contract and the cooling-off period has elapsed you will need to honour your obligations in terms thereof. It is your responsibility to make it your priority to read the fine print and if you don’t understand, ask the gym employees to explain it to you.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)