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How to avoid being ripped off when joining a gym

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09/01/2019
The start of a new year often brings promises of getting fit – but if you’re joining a gym, make sure you get what you pay for.

Gym membership costs vary hugely. Nowadays you can become a member of a no-frills facility for as little as a tenner a month, but the more luxurious health clubs could set you back hundreds.

Whichever option you choose, it’s important to be fully clued up on what you’re getting for your money and to understand your rights if you want to cancel your contract.

In the 12 months to the end of November 2018, Citizens Advice said it dealt with an average of 241 cases each month relating to gyms, health clubs and fitness studios – up from 197 the previous year.

Nearly one in five of these cases were about substandard services. These included gyms being closed for long periods of time, classes being shorter than advertised, people struggling to book prepaid personal training sessions and poor-quality facilities – including a fitness studio with no hot showers.

One in 10 cases related to terms and conditions with 16% complaining about misleading claims in the small print such as being promised bespoke exercise plans which never happened.

The charity also saw 46,000 people visit its ‘cancelling a gym membership’.

In one case it dealt with, a man called Citizens Advice for help getting out of a 12 month contract after he was unable to use the gym as expected. It was so oversubscribed he had to queue to use equipment and faced long waits in the changing rooms as there weren’t enough showers.

Another woman turned to the charity after signing up to her local health club on the promise it was going to be fully refurbished, but the improvements were never made.

Kate Hobson, consumer expert at Citizens Advice, said: “At this time of year we’re bombarded with offers for health and fitness memberships, which can ask for a lot of money or commitment up front.

“It’s really important to do your homework before you sign up to any gym, health club or fitness studio. Make sure you know how long you’re committing for, how much it will cost you, and think about how often you’ll need to use it for it to make sense on your budget.”

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