Gyms owned by Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne are among a raft of high street fitness outfits which today have been told to make their membership contracts more transparent, as the Office of Fair Trading thinks that they can be unfair on customers.
The changes were announced following an investigation into Bannatyne Fitness, David Lloyd Leisure and Fitness First health clubs by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which found that some contracts could ‘unfairly lock people in’ even if their financial circumstances changed.
The companies will now have to make initial membership periods and the rights that customers have to cancel clearer in their sales and customer enrolment procedures.
Senior director of the OFT’s Goods and Consumer Group, Cavendish Elithorn, said: ‘Millions of people are members of gyms and a membership contract can easily be a financial commitment of over £500 per annum.
‘We were concerned that contracts could unfairly lock people in if their circumstances changed – forcing them to continue paying even if they had lost their job.’
The chief exec of consumer group Citizens’ Advice, Gillian Guy, said: ‘We deal with hundreds of complaints each month from people who have been ripped off by dodgy gym contracts including deals that don’t add up, unexpected hikes in fees and contracts that unfairly lock people into long term commitments.
‘It’s great to see that the OFT has taken action against three gym giants as it will make contracts clearer for their customers and protect them from unfairness.’
A spokesperson for Bannatyne Fitness said: ‘We have fully cooperated with the OFT wholescale review of this issue.
'Bannatyne Health Clubs are uniformly operating under contracts that meet the OFT recommendations with regard to length of contracts and provisions relating to cancellation due to illness.’