Every January millions of us sign up to gym memberships with the idea of going five times a week - in reality many of us throw in the towel by spring.
But it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pack it all in without paying the remainder of your contract.
“The key with gym contracts is to read them carefully and only sign if you’re happy with them,” advises Hannah Parsons, a solicitor at DAS Law.
However, it’s not just a disinterest in the gym that drives members to wanting to cancel though. A change in circumstance, like redundancy, could mean you need to cancel your membership. Hannah says: “If a specific clause seems unfair or inappropriate, ask the gym to remove it from your contract before you sign. If you do find that you need to terminate the contract early, check the contract to see if it covers your circumstances. Does it, for example, specify what happens if you are ill or lose your job. If it does not, then you have good grounds for a discussion with your gym to try to reach an agreement.”
Whatever your reason for wanting to quit, there are ways to get out early though - Hannah shares four legal ways you could end your membership earlier than you might have expected.
If the gym closes or removes a facility which formed a significant part of its offering – for example, a swimming pool or steam room – this could be construed as a breach of contract by the gym. This gives you grounds to argue for a reduction in fees or contract termination.
Change in circumstances
If you have a fixed term membership, e.g. for 12 months, but your circumstances change in an unforeseeable way – a long-term illness, losing your job or having to move – you could have grounds for immediate cancellation. This is because the courts in England and Wales have decided that some minimum terms of memberships are unfair, particularly where termination is prevented despite the consumer facing unforeseen circumstances.
An increase in your gym membership fee could result in a breach of contract, but it depends on the wording of your membership contract. If the wording in the contract that entitles them to increase the fee was not prominent and clearly worded or if the price rise is large enough to show that it represents a significant departure from the original basis of the membership contract then you may have a right to terminate your membership.
If you have already signed a gym membership contract and on review believe that one or more of its terms could be unfair, you still have rights. In particular, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 means that any contract entered into after 1 October 2015 is subject to a test of fairness. If a term of the contract or the entire contract is found to be unfair it will not be binding on you. An unnecessarily long contract, unreasonable early termination fees, automatic renewals or punitive penalties may all be considered to be unfair under the Act.