Consumer Affairs Victoria warned Victorians full of New Year enthusiasm not to sign up to fitness contracts without taking the time to check the membership terms and conditions.

Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Dr Claire Noone urged Victorians looking to join a new gym to do their research before signing on the dotted line.

“Consumer Affairs Victoria received 1168 complaints and enquiries about gym and health club memberships in 2013, with contract cancellations the main cause of concern,” Dr Noone said.

“Before signing any membership contract, know what you want, be clear on what you can afford and work out what type of membership will suit you.

“Many health and fitness businesses use free trials and introductory offers to attract new members, especially in the first few months of the New Year. If presented with a free trial or special offer, remember to ask the gym to clearly outline what is included with the trial or membership and what is not.”

Before you sign up to an introductory offer, it is important to check:

  • when the introductory period or offer will end
  • what fees or charges will apply, and when
  • what services or products you can use during the trial
  • whether you will automatically switch to paying for the service or product at the end of the trial period
  • what you need to do to end the trial – for example, you may have to choose to opt out of the ongoing contract
  • whether you have to give notice to end the trial; and if so, how much notice and how it must be given – for example, some contracts require 30 days notice in writing.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must make sure any promotions are not misleading or deceptive. They cannot rely on small print and disclaimers as an excuse.

Before signing a fitness contract:

  • decide on your fitness goals and budget: is a gym membership is best for you? Know what you want, what you can afford and what type of membership will suit you
  • take your time to look at several fitness centres
  • tour the gym at times that you plan to use it and try it out on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis, to see if it meets your needs and fits your lifestyle
  • ask if the fitness centre has policies that would limit your use – for example, the pool is not open to all members at certain times, or the gym shuts on public holidays.