Gym contracts: just when you thought you were out…
What happens when a gym continues to charge you long after you've cancelled your membership?
By Ruairi O'Shea
Getting out of a contract with a gym can be more difficult than any of the workouts you do there.
But what happens when you cancel a contract, only to find that the gym has kept charging your bank account long after the cancellation?
This is the situation Amy found herself in recently.
In December 2020, her teenage son called Anytime Fitness in Napier to cancel his membership. He said he was asked a few questions about why he wanted to cancel, and then was told that it would be taken care of.
But when Amy checked her bank account in March 2022 following the cancellation of another service, she realised that Anytime Fitness had continued to debit her account, charging her a total of $990 over 15 months.
When Amy contacted the gym, she expected it would be a fairly quick fix. After all, she had been paying for services that had not been used for more than a year.
But that’s not what happened.
“The employee pretty much said: ‘The money has still been coming out of your bank. You should have noticed that and unless your cancellation is in writing then sorry, there's nothing we can do’.”
Amy spoke to the manager of the gym but was met with the same response.
“I was gutted because I’ve been struggling along, trying to make ends meet and make things work. When it happened, I felt silly … I felt angry and upset.”
Amy got in touch with Consumer NZ to understand what her rights were. We took a look at the contract and informed her that:
The gym’s terms and conditions clearly do not require written notice to cancel the contract, so it is not legally entitled to insist on written notice.
The gym should provide a refund of $990 – the amount debited from Amy’s account following the cancellation, allowing for the 14-day notice period.
When Amy presented this information to Anytime Fitness in Napier, the burden of proving the cancellation was once again placed on her, with the manager of the franchise requesting the “phone log” for the telephone conversation 15 months prior as proof of the cancellation.
Following this exchange, we contacted Anytime Fitness’ head office on Amy’s behalf. The gym explained that while there are policies and procedures in place to ensure that problems like this do not occur, things can slip through the cracks.
Anytime Fitness stated that Amy’s experience was not in line with their expectations and the franchise involved would fully refund Amy the $990 she had been charged incorrectly.
“Anytime Fitness is a franchise system and each club is independently owned and operated with a vast number of staff throughout NZ. We have in place policies and procedures for owners and their staff to follow and regrettably, though rarely, these situations can sometimes occur … The experience Amy has had is not to our expectations and the club involved will be providing her a refund of $990 for the membership that was understood to have been cancelled.”
How to ensure this does not happen to you
Amy and her son were not at fault in this situation; their contract did not require cancellation in writing, and whether a membership is cancelled or not should not be contingent on how fastidiously a customer checks their bank account. However, there are some things you can do to prevent this happening to you:
Always try to get an acknowledgement of the cancellation of services in writing. You might not be obligated to do so, but details in writing offer greater clarity to both parties and are significantly more difficult to dispute.
Following the cancellation of a service, always check your bank account in detail to ensure that payments have ceased. While it is a business’ responsibility to stop debiting your account, they can be a lot better at spotting when you owe them money than the other way round.