Consumer Protection will be cracking down on some fitness industry operators that are failing to comply with the new Code of Practice that came into effect on 1 July last year.
Of most concern are issues relating to consumers not receiving refunds or copies of the contracts as required by the mandatory code. So far this year Consumer Protection has received 37 complaints against fitness industry operators with a total of 167 in 2021.The vast majority involve disputes over membership cancellations and payments/refunds.
There have been 111 enquiries from consumers on these issues so far in 2022, with a total of 269 enquiries in 2021.
The new rules were expanded to include activities both inside and outside of a gym such as 24/7 gyms, outdoor boot camps, personal trainers and yoga classes. Membership agreements and pricing were made clearer, a longer seven day cooling-off period was introduced and the cancellation and automatic payment renewal processes were simplified.
There are also specific provisions to ensure that suppliers of fitness services and their staff don’t engage in high pressure sales tactics or make statements that are misleading or unfair.
Under the new Code, members with contracts longer than six months must be notified by the fitness services provider at least two months prior to the automatic renewal of their memberships to give them a chance to cancel it without penalty. Memberships can be cancelled by email and direct debits must stop immediately.
Fitness operators are urged to familiarise themselves with the new rules, particularly the rules around membership cancellations. Memberships can be cancelled during the cooling off period, due to permanent illness, incapacity or for other reasons.
Fitness operators are required to respond to requests for cancellation in writing within seven days and confirm the amount of last payment due and the date the termination takes effect.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said those operators that don’t comply with the new rules may soon be investigated.
“I realise that gyms and the fitness industry generally have been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, but the revised rules provide important protections for their clients and they have been in effect for almost a year now, so ample time has been allowed for the industry to adjust and comply.” Mr Newcombe said.
The Fitness Industry Code of Practice can be viewed on the Consumer Protection website