Cancelling a gym contract

Is trying to cancel a gym contract testing your mettle? We explain your rights.

Woman on cycle machine at the gym

Joined a gym but given the runaround when you want to quit? To avoid your wallet getting an unexpected workout, here’s our rundown of your rights.

FAQs

I joined a gym offering a “no lock-in contract” and thought I could quit at any time. However, when I wanted to cancel, the gym said I needed to give three weeks’ notice. Is that right?

If a gym tells you that you’re free to leave at any time, but then requires you to give notice, you’ve been misled and it’s breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Open-term or “no lock-in” contracts let you pay as you go, rather than being locked in to a membership for a set period. However, gyms must be clear about how you can end the contract. Any cancellation period must be reasonable.

Gyms also risk breaching the act if they advertise “no contract” deals but then require customers to give notice to end their membership.

I signed up to a gym but the following month I hurt myself playing netball and couldn’t use my membership anymore. I tried to cancel but the gym said I had to either pay a cancellation fee or pause my membership. What are my rights?

If you’ve signed up for a fixed-term membership (12, 24 or 36 months), most gyms charge termination fees if you cancel before your minimum term is up.

Gyms that don’t let you cancel your membership when you have an injury are on shaky ground. These terms are likely to breach the Fair Trading Act’s ban on unfair contract terms.

Usually, you’ll be charged a fee based on a percentage of the total due for the remainder of your membership term, or a flat cancellation fee. However, any fee must be reasonable and you shouldn’t be unfairly penalised.

Pausing the membership can be another option, giving you time to recover from injury before hitting the treadmill again. The gym may ask for a medical certificate and some charge a fee for putting membership on hold.

Gyms that don’t let you cancel your membership when you have an injury are on shaky ground. These terms are likely to breach the Fair Trading Act’s ban on unfair contract terms.

I gave my gym 30 days’ notice I was cancelling my membership. But because I’d paid a month in advance, it said my cancellation notice would start from the date I’d paid up to. My 30-day notice period turned into 56 days. Can the gym do this?

When you cancel a gym membership, the notice period should start from the day you notify the gym, not from the date you’ve paid up to.

There’s no legitimate reason for the gym to start the clock ticking at the later date. If your gym tries this on, remind it the Fair Trading Act says it can’t impose unfair terms.

I want to cancel my gym membership, but I was told I had to come in and complete a form. Is this really necessary?

No, it’s not. You shouldn’t need to make a special trip to the gym to cancel your membership.

Putting steps like this into the cancellation process is unnecessary. If your gym tries it on, don’t put up with it. If it plays hardball, let us know.

I signed up for a gym membership, but then the gym altered its hours and conditions of membership. These changes mean the gym doesn’t suit me anymore. Can I cancel?

Gyms can’t make wholesale changes to their services without giving members the right to opt out.

If your gym makes significant changes to its services, and those alterations don’t suit, then you should be given the option to end your contract (without paying a cancellation fee).

Gyms can’t make wholesale changes to their services without giving members the right to opt out. Contract terms that claim the gym can do so are likely to fall foul of the law.

My membership runs out this month. Do I have to tell my gym I won’t be renewing?

When you sign up, the gym should tell you what happens at the end of your membership term. You may be asked if you want the contract to automatically renew. If you select this option but later change your mind, you’ll need to tell the gym you don’t want the contract to rollover.

However, if your contract is automatically renewed and you haven’t been told this will happen, the gym should let you terminate the contract without charge – as well as reimburse you for any overpayment of membership fees.

I paid my membership online by credit card. When the bill arrived, I’d been hit with a $21.30 surcharge. This didn’t show online. Is this legal?

By not declaring a surcharge at the online checkout, the gym is misleading customers about the price they have to pay and risks breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Any mandatory fees should be disclosed upfront, including credit card surcharges and other payment processing fees.

The gym should also tell you about any joining or start-up fee. Other fees that may apply for putting your membership on hold or making other changes should be explained when you join.

Gym checklist

Before you hit the treadmill, take a few deep breaths and check the fine print of your gym contract. Find out:

  • how long you’re signing up for
  • how much it costs and whether any other fees apply
  • whether you can put your membership on hold, and what this costs
  • how the gym deals with complaints
  • how you can cancel the membership and what notice period you have to give
  • whether there’s a charge for cancelling the membership early (if so, how much?)
  • what happens at the end of any minimum membership term?
  • what happens if you can’t pay your membership on time.

If you’re signing up online, read the gym’s terms and conditions before hitting “pay now”.

What's in a fair contract?

A fair contract should:

  • let you end your membership easily when any minimum term ends. If you want to cancel the contract early, any cancellation fee should be fair
  • let you end your membership if your circumstances change and you can’t use the gym or are suffering financial hardship
  • require the gym to notify you of changes to services and let you cancel if the changes materially disadvantage you
  • provide for any membership fees paid in advance by lump sum to be refunded in the event you or the gym cancels the contract
  • provide fair processes for dealing with complaints.

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