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Queensland Government once again singles out fitness clubs for fair trading warning

Queensland Government once again singles out fitness clubs for fair trading warning
January 7, 2020

With many kickstarting a healthier 2020 by taking out a new gym membership, the Queensland Government has once again chosen to highlight individuals rights under Australian Consumer Law when joining a fitness club.

Following a familiar pattern by state government departments and agencies each January, Queensland acting Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Dr Anthony Lynham has today issued a press release highlighting protections available to those joining a gym or fitness centre.

The advice follows Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading having received around 150 complaints from consumers about gym memberships in 2019, from, what Australasian Leisure Management estimates, over 15,000 complaints received during the year. (The estimate is based on the 2017 figure of 15,756 complaints to the Office of Fair Trading being finalised in that year).

Yet, despite the fitness sector being responsible for around just 1% of consumer complaints, the acting Attorney-General highlighted "common issues" including members being overcharged, being charged for a membership after termination, and other contractual disputes.

Advising  consumers to "give careful consideration to what you want out of a gym membership", he went on to say "by doing your research to see what’s on offer, you’ll be in a far better position to make an informed choice.

“Consider which gym has the facilities you’re more likely to benefit from, such as swimming pools, group classes or one-on-one personal training services.

“The fitness industry is regulated in Queensland, and gyms and other fitness suppliers must meet certain legal requirements.

“For example, before you sign up, you’re allowed to inspect the facilities.

“And be wary of advertising puffery, as gyms may not make false or misleading claims, including unrealistic weight loss goals.

“Advertising must be truthful, accurate and unambiguous.”

Dr Lynham said once a consumer has selected a gym to join, both parties must sign an agreement, adding "this can be a fixed term or ongoing contract and this agreement is important, as it sets out your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the gym or fitness club.

“All contracts also have a 48-hour cooling off period to provide peace of mind for those who may have second thoughts.

“The contract should detail all the applicable fees you have to pay, including ongoing membership costs and any one-off administrative charges, and clearly define what your rights are for ending the agreement.

“No one wants to get caught paying for a service they can no longer use because they’ve moved away or suffered from an injury.

“That’s why you can end an agreement any time in writing, however be aware the gym may charge you a cancellation fee.

“The details of this fee must also be set out in your contract.”

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About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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