Gym contracts

Joining a gym

Before you join a gym or fitness centre, visit it and make sure you are happy that the equipment, and that the facilities are up to the standard you want. Also check that the staff is friendly and helpful. Speak to existing members of the club. Find out whether they are satisfied with the service.

Some gyms also offer free trials or pay-per-visit membership, so this is an opportunity to try their services before deciding whether or not to join. In most cases, when you join a gym you will be signing a contract for membership, so before you sign up, check the terms and conditions of the contract to be sure you are happy with the agreement you are signing.

Always remember that a contract is a legally binding document. If you sign it, you are committed to it.

Understanding the contract

Contracts should be clear to customers. You should not need legal advice to understand what they mean. Take time to read the contract through, so that you fully understand what the gym expects of you and what you can expect of the gym.

If you do not understand any words or if something is unclear, ask for an explanation before signing anything.

Length of contract

The contract may commit you to remaining a member for a minimum amount of time, for example one year. This could apply even if you pay by instalments or by direct debit. You may have to continue to pay for the minimum duration of the contract.

If you pay the full amount in advance, you may not get a refund.

Carefully check any terms and conditions in the contract that refer to minimum duration and refunds before signing.

Payment

The types of payments vary from gym to gym:

  • Some require one year’s membership paid in advance (“up-front annual subscription fee”)
  • Some give the option of paying by direct debit or credit card instalments
  • Some may also give you the option of a combination of both options (up-front payment or monthly subscription)

In all cases, you should:

  • Work out how much each option will cost you
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully – look out for any mention of penalties for missing a payment
  • Make sure that the payment option you choose is best suited to your needs

Remember: if you are paying by instalments, your bank or credit card statement is similar to a receipt, so check it.

Legal obligation

Once you have signed the contract you are legally committed to paying for the minimum duration. If you have paid up front in advance, and decide you want to leave the gym before the end of the contract, you may not get a refund. It is open to you to stop your direct debit at any time (by contacting your bank), but remember that you are still under contract, and the gym could pursue you for payment.

Many gyms operate a rollover or an automatic renewal which means that your membership will automatically renew, unless you inform the gym in writing that you do not want to renew.

Cancelling a contract

Most gym contracts require you to give notice of cancellation. This is often between one to three months’ notice.

Make sure you know what the cancellation requirements are, so that you can weigh up the contract and decide whether it suits you. You will usually be required to pay during the notice period.

Disputes

If a dispute does arise between you and the gym or leisure club in relation to its terms and conditions, you should try to resolve the matter with the club or gym.

Always keep copies of all correspondence and records of phone calls you’ve had with the business. This will be important later on if you are unable to resolve the dispute with them.

If you have a claim against the business of up to €2,000, one option would be to take a case in the Small Claims Court. This is a relatively cheap, fast and easy way for consumers to resolve some types of dispute without having to use a solicitor.

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