By Sanette Viljoen
One gets to stage in your life where you feel you would like to get out of your house and join a club or gymnasium. Some people may have put on a bit of weight and want to do something about it on the spur of the moment. To some people it is a lifestyle while others don’t stay enthusiastic for long. The problem is that people join a facility but after a month they are no longer interested. So, before you enter into any contract it is necessary to take a few steps back and thoroughly check the terms of the agreement. As with any other agreement, you are bound by that agreement and its terms.
In many contracts there is always the temptation of a free trial period of, say, one month or a substantial discount if you join for a long period. However, first look at how long you are going to use the facility, the travelling time to the venue, and the cost involved, as well as at the different types of services offered by the facility. Some gymnasiums, for instance, also offer yoga and Pilates classes. Decide whether you really want to use these services.
Make a special note that the Consumers Protection Act (Act 68 of 2008) applies to these types of contracts. This act regards unfair contracts as of no force and effect and unenforceable.
In terms of section 48 of the Act a contract is unfair and unreasonable if there is a clear imbalance between the rights of the gymnasium or club and the client. It would, for instance, be unfair if the club or gymnasium is favoured to the detriment of the consumer or if it was entered into while you were relying on misleading or false conditions. Many of these facilities’ advertisements are misleading and leave the consumer with false expectations.
In terms of section 16 of the Act the club’s or gymnasium’s contracts must make provision for a cooling-off period of five days from when you signed the contract, after which the contract may be cancelled. Use this cooling-off period to make sure that membership is really in your best interests.
Many of these contracts also have an automatic-renewal clause, which you would do well to scrap. The Consumers Act provides that this type of contract may not last for longer than 24 months. If there is an automatic-renewal clause, the gymnasium is obliged to notify you of any substantial amendments to the terms of your contract.
Also make sure of the circumstances under which you may terminate the contract. Also find out whether the contract includes a cancellation fee should you want to end the contract earlier.
As with any other contract, you are bound by your membership contract. Once the cooling-off period has ended, you are obliged to discharge your duties in terms of it. It does not matter whether you have used the facility once or 10 times a month, you will still have to pay the full monthly amount.
Therefore, make sure that your – possibly temporary – enthusiasm will be worth the money