Tread carefully with gym contracts

CHOICE gives the lowdown on joining up

With Australians set to spend almost 3 billion dollars¹ this year on their fitness, CHOICE is warning people who are taking out gym memberships to look out for hidden fees, pushy sales tactics and confusing contracts.

The people’s watchdog says whilst many gyms will offer special deals at this time of year, it is important to be wary of promotions and verbal promises that are not provided in writing.

“Going to the gym has become the second most popular fitness activity after walking² and with that comes an enormous range of deals and membership types,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.

According to the Fitness Industry Code of Practice set out by the industry body Fitness Australia, gyms must provide a copy of the contract to members and a cooling off period upon joining. 

“Never take the salesperson’s word when it comes to offers and always take the gym contract home to read the terms and conditions before signing up – don’t be afraid to walk away and say ‘I’ll think about it’,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE also advises checking to see if the fees quoted verbally are the same as listed on the contract and if there are any administration or cancellation fees.

“Whilst direct debit can be convenient and avoid an initial lump sum pay out, ensure the direct debits stop when your membership expires. You may need to stop your payments well in advance if you wish to cancel your membership,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE says that many people sign up enthusiastically for gym memberships but their commitment wanes, meaning they have wasted their money. 

“Consider trying the gym before you commit to a membership. What looks great when you walk through the door may not be so great one week down the track. Take out a casual membership for a month or a pay for a few visits to see if the gym facilities, atmosphere and classes are right for you,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE tips when signing up to a gym membership:

• Consider your needs. Is the gym convenient to you, are there enough showers, lockers and equipment. Does it provide the atmosphere you want?
• Don’t be pressured into signing up on the spot because of a special deal available now that won’t be repeated. Don’t be afraid to say ‘I’ll think about it.’
• Look for gyms who are a member of Fitness Australia –these gyms must comply with the Fitness Industry Code of Practice.
• Find out what extra benefits come with membership – some gyms provide free childcare, massage, lockers and dietician support. Additionally some health funds may subsidise gym fees - check before signing up.
• If you need to cancel your membership, check your contract to see what is required and what costs you’re up for.
• Get independent advice on gym memberships such as 

¹ Fitness in Australia: Market Research Report, IBISWorld, October 2011. 
² Australian Social Trends; Sport and Physical Recreation, Australian Bureau of Statistics, June 2011. 

Read CHOICE's report into gym contracts. 

Media contact:
Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

Related articles

Related tags:

Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.