Weigh-up your rights as gyms close

With Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe

Fitness fanatics may be left wondering what will happen to their gym memberships with ‘non-essential’ services like gymnasiums now shutdown around the country as part of the State and Federal Governments’ continuing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Consumers might be wondering whether they are still required to pay membership fees for sessions and classes they can no longer attend, and what their rights are to a refund or credit if they have already paid for these services ahead of time.

In ordinary circumstances, Australian Consumer Law prohibits businesses from taking payments when it is unable to supply a service, even when the contract specifies that payments can’t be suspended. This means that if payments have already been deducted you are within your rights to approach the business for a refund.

However, when a service has been suspended due to government restrictions (such as in this instance), your right to a refund may be impacted.

We’re aware that some gyms are looking to provide alternative services, such as online work-outs, in which case it may not be reasonable to expect to receive a full refund. Consumers do not have to accept the offer of an alternative and can request a refund, credit note or voucher if they prefer.

If your gym is not offering such alternatives, then you may wish to request a refund, credit note or voucher. You may also have rights under contract law where the contract can no longer be performed.

Please remember that these are unprecedented times for everybody and consumers need to be patient while waiting for businesses to respond. It is more than likely your gym is dealing with dozens of similar enquiries.

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