Choosing a fitness service
Fitness industry requirements are changing
Effective 1 July 2021, all fitness suppliers must adhere to requirements of the new Fair Trading (Fitness Industry Code of Practice) Regulations 2020 (WA) (Fitness Code), which include changes to membership agreements and fees, cooling-off periods and cancellation processes.
In the meantime, fitness suppliers must continue to follow the current interim code.
Although some fitness suppliers may choose to implement the new Fitness Code requirements sooner, they are not mandatory until 1 July 2021.
The fitness industry in Western Australia offers you plenty of choices including national franchises, community facilities, bodybuilding, 24/7 access, outdoor individual and group fitness.
But which one is right for you?
Knowing how often you are likely to use a fitness service is a good starting point. Think about location (i.e. close to home or work), quality of instructors, types of classes offered and extra benefits such as a crèche.
It’s a good idea to shop around. Consider the total financial commitment of ongoing payments. Read agreements carefully before signing on the dotted line or accepting the terms and conditions. Remember, a fitness membership agreement is a legally binding contract.
The current interim code offers consumers significant rights when dealing with fitness centres and other fitness suppliers.
The current interim code includes:
- a 48 hour cooling-off period for all gym membership agreements;
- requirements for truth in advertising and the selling of gym membership agreements;
- full disclosure of fees and services; and
- a limit of 12 months payments in advance.
See the Exercising your rights: the fitness code guide for helpful details about the current interim code.
Choosing a fitness centre
The current interim code requires that fitness centre promotional material must be truthful and accurate and there must be no high-pressure sales tactics to get you to join.
A centre cannot tell you a membership is 'free' or 'discounted' if the services or facilities are restricted or of lesser quality than usual.
The current interim code says you must be given the opportunity to inspect a fitness centre before you join up. We recommend this, as you may want to:
- check how busy it is at the times you will attend;
- check out equipment and cleanliness; and
- talk with a couple of members to find out what their experience has been.
Not all fitness centres offer the same terms and conditions, so shop around for the agreement that best suits your needs. For example, if you are prone to illness or injury, try to find a fitness centre that allows you to suspend your membership if you are sick or injured.
Services and facilities
- How much does membership cost?
- What services are included in the membership fee?
- What services or facilities require extra fees? e.g. extra costs may apply for a crèche or personal training.
- What payment options are available? e.g. casual fees, pre-payment, or automatic debits.
Length and kind of agreement
- Is the membership agreement a fixed-term agreement or an ongoing agreement that will continue until you take action to cancel it?
Ending the agreement
- Are there any penalties if you want to end the membership agreement early?
- In what circumstances can you terminate or suspend the membership agreement, e.g. can you end the agreement if you get sick, move house or go on holiday?
- What procedure do you need to follow to end the agreement?
In Western Australia the Fair Trading (Fitness Industry Code of Practice) Regulations 2020 (WA) (the Fitness Code) is intended to support public confidence in the fitness industry and establishes a mandatory standard of conduct for fitness services. Examples of a fitness service under the new Fitness Code include a 24/7 gym, an outdoor boot camp, a personal trainer or a yoga class.
About the Fitness Code
The Fitness Code has been operating in Western Australia since 1 January 2005 and is enforced by Consumer Protection.
The Fitness Code protects consumers dealing with fitness suppliers through:
- a seven-day cooling-off period for all membership agreements
- requirements for truth in advertising and the selling of membership agreements
- full disclosure of fees and services
- a limit of 12 months' payments in advance.
Fitness services' promotional material must be truthful and accurate. A fitness supplier cannot tell you a membership is 'free' or 'discounted' if the services or facilities are restricted or of lesser quality than usual. There must be no high-pressure sales tactics to get you to join.
Further, you must be given the opportunity to inspect a fitness service before you join up, which we recommend you do (see Equipment and classes below).
Things to consider before signing a membership agreement
The Fitness Code requires all fitness services in Western Australia to provide the public with information on their terms and pricing. Before you commit to a membership agreement make sure you assess and compare the different options. Use the internet to compare membership terms and prices of similar fitness services.
Consider how often you will use the fitness service. Fitness memberships are legal agreements and you will be committed to making payments until the agreement ends. Sometimes it works out cheaper to sign up for a twelve-month membership rather than paying monthly.
Think about what you will do if your circumstances change. Can the membership be transferred or cancelled if you move away?
Always visit the fitness service, talk to current members, check out the equipment and try out some classes.
Will you need to pay extra for services, such as a crèche or personal trainer? If so, how much?
Many businesses will offer a trial pass or allow you to pay per visit which will give you the opportunity to see if the fitness service is a good fit for you.
Legally binding contract
Membership agreements must be in writing and are a legally binding contract.
They can be:
- on paper and require signing
- electronic where you agree to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Before signing any contract you should always read all the terms and conditions. For online contracts it is often a good idea to print them out to read.
Don’t be pressured into an agreement. Take your time to consider if the terms and conditions are right for you and be prepared to walk away if they are not.
All fitness memberships must have a seven-day cooling-off period. This means that you have the right to change your mind and cancel the agreement in the seven days from the start of the membership. If the membership is for a fitness centre that is not yet open, the cooling off period ends seven days after the fitness centre opens.
The Fitness Code requires that you receive enough information to make an informed decision about a fitness service. This includes providing you with a clear description of the service, including:
- the initial or fixed term for the supply of the service
- details of all fees and charges payable
- any exclusions, important conditions, limitations or restrictions
- a copy of any rules relating to a fitness centre
- an opportunity to inspect a fitness centre
- if requested, information on qualifications and professional registrations for the fitness supplier and their employees.
You must be given an opportunity to read the agreement and the rules of the fitness service before you sign up.
The fitness service must also have a paper or electronic copy of the Fitness Code for you to read if you want to.
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