Fitness services membership agreements
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.
Fitness membership agreements offer different terms and conditions. You should shop around for the agreement that best suits your needs. For example, if you are prone to injury look for a fitness service that allows you to suspend your membership if you become injured.
A fitness service membership is a legally binding contract. Before signing any contract it is important to read all the terms and conditions. If a fitness membership is online, it is often easier to print it out and read it on paper. Examples of a fitness service under the Fitness Code include a 24/7 gym, an outdoor boot camp, a personal trainer or a yoga class.
Pre-paid membership agreements
Under pre-paid membership agreements, you pay the full amount of the membership at the start. Pre-paid arrangements are limited to 12 months' payment in advance.
Pre-paid agreements can be cheaper than other options. However, if the fitness service goes out of business before your membership period has ended, you risk losing money.
Fitness services cannot sell or renew a pre-paid membership if the lease on the premises expires before the end of the membership period.
Ongoing membership agreements
An ongoing membership agreement is a type of payment-by-instalment agreement that will stay in place until you take action to end it.
There is often an initial fixed term for an ongoing agreement. This must be clearly specified in the membership agreement.
When you wish to end the agreement, you must do so in writing. Your membership agreement will specify the notice of cancellation you will need to provide. Thirty days’ is the maximum notice period that can be required.
If you cancel during any initial term you accepted in your membership agreement, you may be required to pay a termination fee. Details of any termination fee must be included in your membership agreement.
You can sign up to pay by instalments with regular deductions from your credit card or bank account. You are under contract and must continue making payments for the membership period. Make sure you are happy with the length of the agreement before signing. Consider a shorter term, such as three months, if the fitness service offers one.
Ongoing membership paid by instalments may appeal to you because of its flexibility. However, such contracts can cause disputes. The Fitness Code requires:
- fitness services contact consumers prior to the end of any fixed term. This is to allow consumers time to cancel an ongoing membership without penalty at the end of a minimum term;
- all ongoing membership agreements state the membership will continue until they cancel it; and
- fitness services respond to requests to cancel a membership agreement within seven days and record the request.
Electronic membership agreements
Fitness services may use electronic membership agreements and electronic direct debit agreements. When an agreement is presented electronically it is a good idea to print it out to read before accepting it.
Check the terms of the membership agreement and any direct debit agreement before you authorise it.
Amending your membership agreement
Carefully check the terms of the agreement before you sign it. The agreement can only be changed later with the consent of both parties.
Before signing, you may cross out clauses that you consider unfair or add new clauses. For example:
- if you are planning an overseas holiday you may want to include a clause allowing you to suspend your membership for that time; or
- you may want a clause that allows you to suspend or end your membership if you become injured or sick.
Any changes or additions must be initialled and dated by you and the fitness service representative.
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