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Victorian Government and Melbourne media warn consumers about being ‘ripped off’ by gyms

Victorian Government and Melbourne media warn consumers about being ‘ripped off’ by gyms
February 5, 2020

Both the Victorian Government and Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun have this week set to warn consumers about the need to be “careful” when joining fitness clubs.

An annual occurrence by many states, the Queensland Government having issued a similar warning last month, the Victorian Government advice and the Herald Sun ‘beat up’ cast doubt in the minds of fitness industry consumers in the way few other sectors are targeted.

Advising that “Consumer Affairs Victoria received more than 500 contacts regarding fitness centres or gym memberships in the last financial year”, the Victorian Government urges “those signing up for gym memberships to read the fine print carefully and make sure they understand the costs involved before making any commitments.”

An example included one customer who signed up for a 12-month gym membership, only to be diagnosed with an illness that severely limited his ability to exercise. Under the contract terms, the customer was required to pay out the full-length of his membership.

The advice from CAV consumers encourages consumers to understand several issues relating to gym memberships: including the circumstances in which they can cancel; and overall membership costs, including any cancellation fees.

It also declares that it is “important for fitness centres to remember that Victoria has strong laws that protect consumers from unfair contract terms (and that) fitness centres should take care not to include any contract terms that would cause unnecessary harm to a consumer, financial or otherwise.”

It also advises that it “has worked with health and fitness centres to remove or modify contract terms that may be deemed unfair, including terms that result in the automatic renewal of a membership.”

Adopting a tone set by Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marlene Kairouz when she said “working out at the gym is a big part of staying ripped – but don’t get ripped off”, the Herald Sun took a more sensational approach to the issue in its article ‘New way gyms are ripping off thousands”, reporting that “callous fitness centres are refusing to cancel contracts, even after members suffer broken bones and develop serious health conditions.”

It added “upset gym goers have complained of unfair tactics at some businesses, with more than 2000 Victorians finding fault in their selected service since 2016.”

In response, the Herald Sun quoted Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish (pcitured) as saying most of the nation's five-million gym members had no problems, but there were a small number of legitimate concerns.

It also added that Fitness Australia is pushing for all gyms to be forced to adopt its code of practice, which promotes professional and lawful conduct.

However, reference to the latest Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) 2018/19 Annual Report, shows it dealt with more than 115,000 ‘contacts’ during the year, from which Australasian Leisure Management calculates that "the 500 contacts regarding fitness centres or gym memberships" represents less than 0.005% of issues.

It is unfortunate that, once again, the fitness industry is an easy target.

The National Fitness Industry Code of Practice offers clear guidance that meets legislative requirements for business operation, nationally and we encourage fitness service operators in the industry to apply and achieve the standards set in these initiatives.

Click here to view the Code of Practice.

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

19th December 2019 - Fitness Australia and NPE to continue partnership that supports business owners

10th December 2019 - Fitness Australia names Sport Australia executive and Glen Eira Leisure manager as appointed Directors

6th December 2019 - Fitness Australia business members rank ‘Exercise is Medicine’ as the hottest industry trend for 2020

19th November 2019 - Fitness Australia announce the election of three new members to its Board of Directors

31st October 2019 - Fitness Australia announce a record number of professionals seeking election to its Board of Directors

2nd October 2019 - Fitness Australia opens nominations for 2020 industry awards

20th September 2019 - Fitness Australia looks for constitution changes to add registered personal trainers on board

20th August 2019 - Consumer Affairs Victoria issues advice on avoiding ticket scams

5th August 2019 - Fitness Australia creates new membership category for small boutique studios

30th April 2019 - Fitness Australia Chief Executive queries ‘self-reported participation rates’ in Ausplay Report

12th April 2019 - David Allan, Ken Baldwin, Amanda Bracks and Leon McNeice inducted into Fitness Australia Roll of Honour

4th March 2019 - ACCC penalises Fitness First for excessive surcharging on member payments

24th January 2019 - Embody gym liquidation sees creditors lose $3.8 million

3rd January 2019 - Queensland Government highlights consumers’ rights when joining a fitness club

27th December 2018 - Fitness Australia urges consumers to put their exercise objectives in the right hands this New Year

26th December 2018 - NSW Government Minister warns consumers over getting ‘ripped off’ by gyms

16th November 2018 - Fitness Australia releases first-ever National Fitness Industry Code of Practice

2nd February 2018 - NSW Fair Trading advises consumers to only sign up with Fitness Australia affiliated gyms

4th July 2014 - ACCC warns gyms about ‘No Contracts’ membership advertising

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