COVID-19 gym closures
Most gyms around the country have closed recently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although gyms have been running video workouts, it’s not the same as actually being able to attend your gym. Whilst your gym is closed, you should not be charged your usual membership fees. According to Australian Consumer Laws, you cannot be charged (even on a subscription basis) for a service that you do not receive. Your gym should be able to pause or freeze your membership without charge. If you have already been charged, then you are entitled to a refund.
How to get out of a gym membership
1. Read your contract
In order to know what are your rights under your gym membership, you should request a copy of your contract. This allows you to review the fine print. As gym contracts are normally binding legal documents, it is important to have a copy of this and keep it in a safe place. Your gym should be able to supply you with your contract. Chain gyms may also have their membership terms and conditions on their website.
Once you have got a copy, make sure you read it thoroughly, especially clauses relating to termination. Some contracts will stipulate fixed exit fees and terms concerning early cancellation if you are locked in for a defined period, including:
- A set fee regardless of how far into the contract you are;
- A fee that decreases the longer you are contracted in;
- Exceptions to paying any exit fees; and
- Penalties if you do not pay your membership fees.
If you are having trouble understanding the terms within your contract, as the wording can be quite convoluted and confusing, don’t be afraid to seek clarification from your gym’s staff.
2. Know the loopholes
Many gym contracts will allow you to terminate the agreement with no penalties if you meet certain requirements. Depending on your gym’s agreement, some of these requirements may include:
- Moving to a new address that is 25kms away from the closest branch
- Sustaining an injury that may prevent you from exercising for a period of time, for example a broken bone
- If you are within a grace period
- Any other reason that you may need to satisfy before being able cancel at no cost to you
With most of these examples, you will most likely need to provide evidence such as a doctor’s certificate, or your new address on a form of identification such as on your driver’s license. If you don’t meet any of your gym’s requirements and still want to cancel, you may need to negotiate with your gym’s staff or management in order to have the exit fee waived or lowered.
Sometimes cancelling may not be the best option, especially if you are expecting to rejoin the gym in the near future. Some alternatives that may be available are:
- Freezing your membership, so you can resume your membership at a later date
- Transferring to another branch of your gym that is closer to you if you are moving
- If your gym provides different membership options, there may be a cheaper option available to you that is suitable.
The most important thing you can do is read your gym contract back to front before signing it. It is also worth trying to negotiate exit terms before you sign up. Many gyms also offer no lock-in contracts, which is a good option if you’re not sure how long you’ll retain your membership. Finally, if you are experiencing significant legal issues with a gym contract, it is always advisable to speak with a contract lawyer. You can also contact the ACCC if you think your gym is in breach of their obligations to consumers.