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Victorian consumers urged to understand terms and conditions of gym memberships
Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O'Brien has urged consumers could take to ensure they are well informed before signing up for fitness club memberships.
With the post-Christmas period traditionally the busiest time of year for the fitness industry, as many people put 'getting in shape' at the top of their New Year's resolutions list, the Victorian Government is urging potential members to fully understand the terms and conditions before buying a gym membership,
Minister O'Brien stated "it is a good idea to check the club is registered with the industry's national peak body, Fitness Australia, which represents more than 26,000 exercise professionals, service providers and suppliers across Australia.
"Consumers should also make sure they shop around compare equipment, facilities and programs at several clubs."
Consumer Affairs Victoria received more than 200 complaints about gym memberships in the 2011-12 financial year. The most common involved contract cancellation rights, contract termination fees and refund rights.
Minister O'Brien urged "it is important to check the fine print and make sure you fully understand your contractual rights and obligations.
"Think about what sort of membership will suit you and be aware of what you can afford once you've signed up, it can be difficult to withdraw if you change your mind."
Gym and fitness centre contracts are covered by laws prohibiting unfair contract terms. This means providers should ensure their contracts do not contain terms that:
• Result in memberships being automatically renewed;
• Allow them to vary any aspects of the service they provide; or
• Make it difficult for consumers to terminate their membership, or penalise consumers for doing so.
Minister O'Brien added "be wary of 'special offers' and high-pressure sales tactics (and) insist all conditions and services are presented to you in writing, including what happens if you cancel, and take the time to read them.
"It's a good idea to take the information from each club away to compare and review at home."
Before taking out a membership, Victorians are urged to:
• Be wary of pre-purchasing memberships for a new club that isn't open yet;
• Ask whether you can suspend the contract for a holiday or illness;
• Make sure you understand the terms of a free' trial or introductory offer;
• Ask whether you can transfer your membership if you move house; and
• Check what rights you have to suspend your membership.
For further information visit www.consumer.vic.gov.au/businesses/fair-trading/contracts/health-and-fitness-centres
8th August 2008 - SMH SLAMS FITNESS FIRST
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