How to cancel your gym membership - a general guide
Last week, we gathered your thoughts, opinions, and experiences on cancelling your gym memberships. We've since compiled your best stories, tips and tricks with ours into this general guide on how to cancel gym memberships. Here are a few things to bear in mind, starting with the most obvious:
1. Read your contract. As a couple of readers pointed out in our non-randomised single blind control survey, we often don't have an exit strategy before we sign on the dotted line. But it is important to know that these contracts are essentially credit agreements (you can read more here about credit agreements and how they apply to all kinds of paperwork you sign). So before you even sign the contract in the first place, make sure your read its T&Cs.
Having said that, there are certain terms and conditions and extenuating circumstances in which you can cancel, which we will cover generally below. Gyms are also legally obligated to show you your contract upon request, so if you don't have a copy, feel free to ask for one. Just cancelling the direct debit is not only risky, but perfectly entitles the company involved to sue you in court for the money, and leave you with a CCJ to ruin your credit rating.
2. Shorter contracts. It should be pointed out that not all gyms run 6 month or year long contracts with 3 month cancellation policies. So shop around like the savvy consumer that you are, and join a gym with a shorter contract duration with better terms. You can also check out our previous guides (as pointed out by BW reader Acecatcher) to cheaper gym memberships and home gyms. We cover some of these gyms in part 2 of the guide and the deals they offer.
3. Check. Most of us join a gym for the sake of joining a gym, only to find ourselves attending no more than 1.5 visits a month. For those of us slightly more diligent, check your bank statements to ensure you are getting charged appropriately. Reader Chris was in for a bigger surprise when after 18 months after cancelling his membership, he discovered that he was being charged at £30 a month, amounting to a hefty £540 lesson. I personally had a similar situation after freezing our gym membership on holiday, only to find out months later that we had been direct debited for months on end at the full rate. Buyer beware.
4. Complain. If within the contract period, the gym fails to provide a satisfactory quality service, you might be able to cancel without penalty and void your contract by showing that it's illegal or unfair under your local law or by showing, under your local law, that you were misled when you joined. Also, if you join online or by phone - and people do - then you have the right to a seven day cooling-offer period during which you can cancel your membership without any penalty.
5. Relocate. If you are moving, and the distance to the gym is impossible, some gyms have clauses that let you out. Reader Stephanie suggests looking for ways to prove that you are moving far away, as this could potentially get you out of your contract without paying any penalties. You could also ask your boss to write a note on headed paper saying you are being transferred. But you can probably get pretty creative with this...
6. Redundancy. Times are tough. But don't just cancel your Direct Debit. BW reader Simon was made redundant over Christmas and did this only to find out weeks later that debt collectors were chasing him for fees plus a £50 collection fee on top of that. He was then forced to pay missed fees while not being let back into the gym for the month. A better approach would be to get hold of an employer letter stating your redundancy along with a P45 as evidence.
7. Health If you have an injury that prevents you from physically using the gym, get a doctors note explaining this. This does not necessarily have to be an injury; for a woman, that might mean pregnancy. It depends on your contract, of course, but the odds are that you'll still be liable to pay for the length of the contract, but these changes when backed up with evidence often mean you increase your chances of cancelling your membership sooner without penalty.
The above is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but simply a compilation of options for you to consider so hope you find it helpful in some way. Hopefully, this help us consumers be a bit more wary with the small print we often fail to notice when taking out a gym membership. If you have anything else to add to the above, or manage to get out of your contract using any of the above tips and tricks, please share your story with us in the comment below.