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Many of us know someone who has signed up to join a gym and then fails to use their membership - but just what are your consumer rights and does the Fitness Industry Code of Practice need to be updated?
The fitness industry in Australia is growing and generated an estimated $229.2 million in profits in 2017-2018 alone, with about 450 gyms and fitness centres operating in WA.
Attending a gym or fitness centre is the second-most popular form of physical activity for Australians, particularly among consumers aged 18-34 years, with walking for exercise being the most popular option.
The current code, introduced in response to misconduct by some operators in the early 2000’s, governs how the fitness industry deals with consumers and their membership contracts in Western Australia.
Consumer Protection is reviewing the code and seeking input from consumers and industry. Consultation closes on 27 August 2018. We want to ensure the code remains appropriate and necessary for this rapidly growing industry.
Under the Fair Trading Act, the current code contains rules applying to gyms, fitness centres, fitness instructors, and personal trainers. It provides protections including:
• A requirement for honesty and full disclosure when selling fitness services.
• A requirement for membership agreements to be in writing.
• A 48-hour cooling off period for membership agreements.
• A 12-month limit on prepayments for membership agreements.
• Rules on how to handle requests to terminate membership agreement.
• Rules on how to handle complaints from clients.
Since the last review in 2010, the Australian Consumer Law has come into effect which provides wider protections for consumers - except for the 48-hour cooling off period and 12-month limit on prepayments for memberships.
Between July 2012 and June 2017, Consumer Protection received 466 complaints about the fitness industry.
Most of those complaints related to membership cancellations, specifically unfair cancellation terms and conditions, ongoing fees and charges after cancellation, and extending membership agreements past their expiry date.
We want to know if you think there continues to be a need for a separate Code of Practice and, if so, what the new code should include to address issues that are unique to the fitness industry.
So don’t miss your chance to have a say. You are welcome to send an email or letter outlining your views, respond to questions included in the public consultation paper or complete a short survey.
Visit www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/cp-consultations for information about how to provide your input or call us on 1300 304 054.