RESIDENTS who are thinking of joining a gym to get fit for the New Year are being encouraged to make sure they are not signing up to an unfair membership contract that they may regret further down the line.
The county council’s trading standards team is encouraging people to pay particular attention to the terms and conditions before signing up, including the minimum membership period and charges and notice required for cancellation.
Fitness clubs cannot make claims in a contract that they are not liable for death or personal injury or for loss or damage to a member’s property.
It is also unfair for clubs to extend the initial membership period without the member’s consent or significantly change the services they provide which are stated in their membership contracts.
The council is also advising independent fitness clubs across Nottinghamshire to ensure their contracts are clear and do not contain unfair terms and conditions.
Sarah Houlton, Trading Standards Manager at the Council, said: “It’s all too tempting to sign on the dotted line when joining a fitness club without paying attention to its terms and conditions which may come back to haunt you.
“It’s also important to keep a copy of the terms and conditions in case you need to refer to them in future.
“The Government’s Office of Fair Trading is currently investigating a number of national companies that run fitness club chains to ensure their contracts are fair for members.
“We are using this opportunity to get the message out to local independent clubs that they need to make sure their contracts comply with the existing regulations. Clubs may struggle to enforce their contracts if they contain unfair terms.”
The Government’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has powers to prevent the use of unfair contract terms under the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
It has opened an investigation under the Enterprise Act 2002 into a number of companies that operate gym and fitness club chains or who provide management services to gyms. It is considering whether these companies are using or recommending unfair contract terms or are engaging in any unfair business practices.
General advice for fitness clubs and tips for members of the public can be found on the OFT website at www.oft.gov.uk
Fitness club members who have concerns over their contracts should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 040506.