Merton Council says: “Lose lbs not £s.”

As everyone struggles to keep their New Year resolution to lose weight and keep fit, Merton Council points out the pitfalls of signing up to an expensive private gym.

In an effort to help residents lose lbs rather than £s, the following tips have been developed to ensure people think about the financial commitment before signing on the dotted line:

1. Do not feel pressured into signing an agreement as soon as you step through the door of the gym. All gyms are legally obliged to provide a copy of the membership agreement to prospective members. Take the agreement home and spend time reading and understanding the terms and conditions of membership
2. Check the length of the membership period and the length of the notice period required if membership is cancelled. The minimum period may be 12 months and could automatically be renewed if no action is taken to cancel membership. Notice of cancellation periods can be as long as three months
3. Some gym membership packages are paid for through a finance credit agreement. These can run for fixed periods eg 12 months or even 24 and 36 months. This could mean that even if membership is cancelled, the remaining duration of the finance agreement would still have to be paid
4. Remember that on joining a gym over the telephone or online, the gym must offer a seven-day “cooling off” period.
5. To cancel gym membership, do so in writing and within the prescribed notice of cancellation period. Post the notice by recorded delivery and keep copies of all correspondence
6. In the case of a dispute with a gym during the membership period, it is necessary to continue payments. With direct debit payments, the bank and the gym must be told that payment is being made “under protest”. If payments stop before membership expires, the gym is within its rights to pursue outstanding arrears.
7. Look at a variety of gym packages, as some are more reasonable and flexible than others.

Merton Council cabinet member for community services, Councillor Maurice Groves said: “It’s that time of year when we’re all trying to go on a health drive. In January we’ve still got the New Year enthusiasm for going to the gym to shed a few pounds, but by February it can be a struggle for some of us to make it there once a week and by April many people have just given up. Yet we are still paying. This happens so often that Merton Council is asking residents to think about the financial commitment before signing up this year. The law relating to gym membership agreements is the same as that relating to a contract for the sale and su