A small number of people in our survey (3%) complained about money continuing to be debited from their account after they’d stopped going to the gym. Consumer affairs and fair trading departments in Queensland and Victoria have also publicised this issue, with many cases coming to them every year.
The problem arises when people sign what they believe is a 12-month contract, and assume (quite reasonably) that at the end of 12 months they stop going and stop paying, unless they choose to renew the contract.
In the fine print, however, it’s usually stated that you have to give written notice (say one month) of your intention to discontinue membership and to stop payments being debited from your account.
So don’t automatically assume that at the end of 12 months (or however long you’ve signed up for) your time is up. If you’re fortunate enough to be with a gym that gives you a friendly prod if you haven’t turned up for a while, you’re less likely to get caught unawares.
We’d like to see universal adoption of the ‘ongoing agreement’ policy in the Queensland code of practice: members must be alerted in writing two months before their initial sign-up period is due to end, and warned that membership (and by implication the direct debit) will continue after this time unless the member terminates the membership agreement.
Is a gym for you?
- "During my membership I have achieved my desired weight loss of 13 kg, my blood pressure has returned to better than normal and my resting pulse compares with a person half my age. Overall I’m a damn sight healthier than I was 13 months ago."
- "I think gyms are overrated. I feel I can manage a better program out in the park by myself or with a buddy than in a gym. I only go for classes now."
If you’ve never been to a gym, it’s hard to know if it’ll suit you. For some people, it’s been a revelation and a joy. For others, there’s an initial enthusiasm which gradually wanes, and attending becomes a nuisance and a chore — almost half the people in our survey who’d quit their gym did so because they didn’t go often enough to make it worthwhile. For many people, though, a gym is simply part of their regular exercise regimen — a fact of life, rather than fun or torture.
To check out a gym properly, see if you can get a short-term membership (a month, say), try a few casual visits or invest in a multi-visit pass (where you buy a certain number of casual visits at a discount; unfortunately many gyms don’t offer them). Given that many people seem to attend their new gym with great enthusiasm for a few weeks or even months, then lose interest, a series of these short-term options may prove the best way to find the right gym for you — and determine your staying power.