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Exercise good judgment before signing gym, spa contract

Getting healthier is a popular New Year’s resolution, but consumers should exercise good judgment before signing up for a long-term fitness or health-related membership.

The annual contract you sign in January may last a lot longer than your resolve, despite your best intentions. Paying on a month-to-month basis may make more sense until you’re sure a longer commitment is right for you.

Service Alberta receives a spike in complaints about these memberships each year, often when consumers find they can’t cancel the deal and get their money back.

A helpful tip sheet highlighting safeguards in the province’s Fair Trading Act has been prepared to help consumers avoid spending money on contracts that may not be a good fit:

  • Make sure you understand what is being offered and what a salesperson tells you about a product or service. Get answers to all your questions before you sign.
  • Ensure the verbal statements made by staff match the policies on the contract. Ask that all the terms and conditions you agreed to are written into the sales agreement.
  • Read the fine print - especially cancellation policies. You may need to cancel in writing by registered letter and/or by a specific date. Ask if you can get a full or partial refund if you cancel before the end of the contract.
  • Watch for automatic renewals. Some fitness clubs will automatically enrol you into another year of membership if you do not explicitly cancel your membership.

“An annual membership can be less expensive than a shorter-term commitment. However if you are uncertain if you want to invest in a long-term contract, you are welcome to purchase a month-to-month membership to see how you like it. Each club is different, so it is important to try out the club before you commit to either buying a new membership or extending an existing contract.“

Trisha Sarker, Executive Director, Fitness Industry Council of Canada

The Fitness Industry Council offers some additional questions that should be asked if a consumer is considering a long-term commitment:

  • Are the location and hours convenient for you?
  • Is the equipment the kind you would want to use? Is it in good condition?
  • Does the facility have additional programs that interest you?
  • Is the facility well maintained? How are the reviews? Are you comfortable in the facility?
  • Is the pricing within your budget?
  • Is there someone you can work out with or would be interested in joining with you for added motivation?

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