Is it time for a new you in 2024? As we enter into a new year, many of us are joining the gym, starting driving lessons, taking dance classes or booking the kids into music and drama courses. Whatever you are signing up for, it’s important to remember that you are entering a contract and reading the terms and conditions is a must.

So before you commit to that gym membership, find out what you should be looking for and what you need to know if those get fit intentions fizzle away.

Get the facts

You have strong consumer rights when it comes to service contracts. Before you agree  to a contract, the business must give you certain information, including:

  • A full description of the service provided
  • The total cost, including VAT
  • Details of any extra charges
  • Information on your right to cancel.

You should read through all this information and make sure you are happy with the service before you pay and sign up.

Read the terms and conditions

Yes they are often long and boring to read but you really do need to read them, as once you sign up you are bound by them. This means that if you wish to cancel, for example, the conditions under which you can cancel will be based on what was in the contract. The terms and conditions should also tell you if there could be changes to the price that you are paying, or what would happen should for example the gym close for a time.

If a service falls short of what’s agreed, you have rights under consumer law to help you fix the problem.

Annual memberships

Many services such as gyms offer an annual membership. This may mean paying for the entire year upfront or agreeing to pay monthly for at least 12 months. You should read your contract carefully to make sure you aren’t committing to a service for longer than you’re comfortable with.

If you sign up online, a 14 day ‘cooling-off’ period applies, during which time you can cancel your membership. You will receive a full refund if you have not used the service during the first two weeks and you may receive a partial refund if you have used the service.

What if I want to cancel?

Sometimes your circumstances change. Many gyms, for example, allow you to pause or cancel your membership under certain circumstances such as illness, injury, losing your job or having to move home.

Your provider is legally obliged to provide you with information about their cancellation policy and the process you need to follow. Read through your contract carefully before you sign up and ask them if you are not sure about anything.