How Watertight Is Your Gym Membership Contract?

As we start the New Year, people are ready for a fresh start. For many, that means getting healthy, hitting the gym and making fitness a top priority. Gyms are prepared for a New Year’s resolution rush and every January millions of people rush to sign expensive gym membership contracts. But how fair are these contracts and can you terminate them if your situation changes?

Unfortunately, the contracts new gym members sign can be packed with incomprehensible language, long notice periods, and even the odd unfair term. So, what happens when those New Year resolutions go out the window or your circumstances change? What are a gym member’s rights to terminate their contract? Under what circumstances does a member have a case for arguing that their membership should end?

Simon Roberts, Solicitor at DAS Law, provides the few key points for gym members…

Facility closure

If the gym closes or removes a facility which formed a significant part of its offering – for example, a swimming pool or steam room – this could be construed as a breach of contract by the gym. This gives you grounds to argue for a reduction in fees or termination of the contract.

Change in circumstances

If you have a fixed term membership, e.g. for 12 months, but your circumstances change in an unforeseeable way – a long-term illness, losing your job or having to move home, you could have grounds for cancellation or membership freeze. This is because the courts in England and Wales have decided that some minimum terms of memberships are unfair, particularly where termination is prevented despite the member dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

Fee increase

An increase in your gym membership fee could result in a breach of contract, but it depends on the wording of your membership contract. If the wording in the contract that entitles them to increase the fee was not prominent and clearly worded – or if the price rise is large enough to show that it represents a significant departure from the original basis of the membership contract – then you may have a right to terminate your membership.

Unfair terms

If you have already signed a gym membership contract and on review believe that one or more of its terms could be unfair, you still have rights. In particular, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 means that any contract entered into is subject to a test of fairness. If a term of the contract or the entire contract is found to be unfair it will not be binding. An unnecessarily long contract, unreasonable early termination fees, automatic renewals or punitive penalties may all be considered to be unfair under the Act.

Read the contract in full

The key with gym contracts is to read them carefully and only sign if you’re happy with them. If a specific clause seems unfair or inappropriate, ask the gym to remove it from your contract before you sign.

If you find that you need to terminate the contract early, check the contract to see if it covers your circumstances. Does it, for example, specify what happens if you are unwell or lose your job? If it does not, then you have good grounds for a discussion with your gym to try to reach an agreement.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.


Media Contacts:
FWD Consulting: 020 7623 2368

Notes to Editors:

DAS UK Group:
The DAS UK Group comprises an insurance company (DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Company Ltd), a law firm (DAS Law), and an after the event legal expenses division.

DAS UK introduced legal expenses insurance (LEI) in 1975, protecting individuals and businesses against the unforeseen costs involved in a legal dispute. In 2017 we wrote over nine million policies.

The company offers a range of insurance and assistance add-on products suitable for landlords, homeowners, motorists, groups and business owners, while it’s after the event legal expenses insurance division offers a civil litigation, insolvency, clinical negligence and personal injury product. In 2013, DAS also acquired its own law firm – DAS Law – enabling it to leverage the firm’s expertise to provide its customers with access to legal advice and representation.

DAS UK is part of the ERGO Group, one of Europe’s largest insurance groups (the majority shareholder in ERGO is Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers).

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