Beware of long-term fitness contracts, Service Alberta says

EDMONTON – Hitting the gym is a positive first step toward a healthy new year, but fitness memberships can lock consumers into expensive contracts that last longer than well-meaning resolutions.

Service Alberta receives a spike in complaints about long-term fitness and health-related memberships every year when consumers find they can’t simply cancel their agreement and receive a refund. Despite your best intentions, Service Alberta says a month-to-month contract is a great starting point for those unsure of whether a longer commitment is a good fit.

An annual membership can be less expensive than a shorter-term commitment, Fitness Industry Council of Canada executive director Trisha Sarker said in a news release. But if you aren’t sure whether to invest in a long-term contract, a month-to-month contract offers a cheaper alternative for those who may opt out early.

“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,� Sarker said.

Service Alberta offers the following tips from Alberta’s Fair Trading Act to help consumers avoid spending money on contracts that might not be a good fit:

— Make sure you understand what is being offered from a product or service. Get answers to all your questions before signing;

— Make sure verbal statements from staff match policies on the contract. Read all the terms and conditions of the sales agreement, and ensure those you agreed to are written into the agreement;

— Read the fine print, especially cancellation policies. Some memberships require cancellation 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 memberships will automatically renew if you don’t explicitly cancel your membership.

The Fitness Industry Council suggests asking these additional questions if you’re considering a long-term commitment:

— Are the location and hours convenient for you?

— Is the equipment the kind you would want to use, and is it in good condition?

— Does the facility have extra programs that interest you?

— Is the facility well-maintained and how are the reviews? Are you comfortable there?

— Is the pricing within your budget?

— Is there someone you can work out with who would be interested in joining you for extra motivation?

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